Tuesday, June 1, 2021

some history of clothe-clips - that we use daily !

The subject of photograph  was not nearer – at least two buildings away – now the test to you is – see the picture below  for a moment and close .. .. tell, what you saw ? – how many clothe clips ? .. .. and do you know what a bull-dog clip is ?

Elementary, dear Watson – lockdown has taught us many skills – cutting vegetables, washing clothes, cooking,  cleaning utensils, mopping the floor, spread the wet clothes on ropes in terrace, put clothe-clips properly, collect them back when dried .. and more !!  .. ..  there was a time, when people would get up, drink coffee, have break-fast, rush to office, return home late, have dinner, sleep – get up, have coffee .. ..    and from Mar 2020, life has changed !!

A clothespin (US English), or clothes peg (UK English) is a fastener used to hang up clothes for drying, usually on a clothes line. Clothespins often come in many different designs.

Dhobikhanas – places where clothes were washed were located nearer river beds and donkeys were used in carrying clothes .. .. in the early days, laundered clothes were hung on bushes, branches of tree and perhaps dried on terraces by placing some stones on them  as weight.  The simple daily utility tool of ‘cloth-clip’ was born of absolute necessity.  Obviously, in India, we have not recorded the date and chronology of their usage nor patented them – elsewhere it was, and that is documented as history.

                   The clothespin for hanging up wet laundry only appears in the early 19th century patented by Jérémie Victor Opdebec. That  design did not use springs, but was fashioned in one piece, with the two prongs part of the peg chassis with only a small distance between them—this form of peg creates the gripping action due to the two prongs being wedged apart and thus squeezing together.  This form of peg is often fashioned from plastic, or originally, wood. In England, clothes-peg making used to be a craft associated with the Romani people, commonly known by the slur gypsy, who made clothes-pegs from small, split lengths of willow or ash wood.  In 1853 David M. Smith of Springfield, Vermont invented a clothespin with two prongs connected by a fulcrum, plus a spring.  By a lever action, when the two prongs are pinched at the top of the peg, the prongs open up, and when released, the spring draws the two prongs shut, creating the action necessary for gripping.

The design by Smith was improved by Solon E. Moore in 1887. He added what he called a "coiled fulcrum" made from a single wire, this was the spring that held the wooden pieces together, acted as a spring forcing them to shut, and as a fulcrum on which the two halves could rock, eliminating the need for a separate component, and reducing manufacturing costs.  This became the first successful spring-actuated clothespin, being manufactured and sold in huge quantities all across the United States.

The state of Vermont, and its capitol of Montpelier, in particular, quickly became what The New York Times called "The Silicon Valley of Clothespin Manufacturing", the United States Clothespin Company (U.S.C. Co.) opened in 1887 to manufacture Moore's improved design. Vermonter Stephen Thomas, served as company president, and the company enjoyed a significant level of success, in spite of the competitors that rapidly sprang up in Waterbury and other places.  In 1909, Allan Moore, one of the U.S.C. Co. employees, devised a way in which clothespins could be manufactured more cheaply, by eliminating one of the coils in the "spring fulcrum". He left the company, and with a loan from a local entrepreneur opened a competing factory, literally across the street from the U.S.C. Co. building. The new National Clothespin Company rapidly overtook the U.S.C. Co., consuming 500,000 board-feet of lumber at the height of production.

After WWI, cheap imports from Europe began to flood the market, in spite of repeated calls for protective tariffs by Vermont, and the state industry went into decline; in 1920, it cost 58 cents to manufacture one gross of clothespins in Vermont, while imported Swedish clothespins were sold for 48 cents a gross. The situation worsened after WWII, and the introduction of the electric clothes dryer diminished demand for clothespins, further damaging the industry; the U.S.C. Co. was forced to close its doors before the end of the 1940s. However, the National Clothespin Company, who had previously moved from its original location across the street, and had been sold to a new owner, managed to stay in business by virtue of a contract with the F.W. Woolworths department store chain. In this fashion, they managed to hang on through the following decades, in spite of a disastrous fire in 1978. The profit margin was eaten into further by the increasing volume cheap Chinese imports; the familiar pleas for protective tariffs were continued, but to no result.  

The survival of the spring-hinged clothespin into the modern era is an unlikely story of Darwinian selection. From 1852 to 1887, the U.S. patent office issued 146 separate patents for clothespins.  Most other designs of the era, like Edmund Krelwitz’s bulky “improved clothes-pin” — consisting of “one continuous strip of sheet metal” that was “bent in the shape of a U” — have been lost to the same laundry purgatory where single socks must go. Samuel Pryor of Salem, N. J., received the first American patent for a clothespin in 1832. But his model was lost in a fire that destroyed the U.S. patent office four years later. It wasn’t until the late 1840s that clothespins began to be mass-produced.   

In the age of Maytag, the clothespin’s survival can be attributed, in part, to its usefulness in craft projects and how easily it can be converted into reindeer. Yet the industry has declined, and many domestic clothespin makers — like the Penley Corporation — have closed shop.   Looking backward, the clothespin is a relatively easy way to dry your clothes without having to lay them on the ground or drape them over something.  The clothespin hasn’t changed for over 150 years.

Before concluding – a ‘bulldog clip’  is a device for temporarily but firmly binding sheets of paper together. It consists of a rectangular sheet of springy steel curved into a cylinder, with two flat steel strips inserted to form combined handles and jaws. The user presses the two handles together, causing the jaws to open against the force of the spring, then inserts a stack of papers and releases the handles.  You will well remember our Examination Pads, some with clips fixed while the ingenuous ones carried a calendar with bulldog clip attached ! The spring forces the jaws together, gripping the papers firmly.

.. .. and  most likely that you have watched the photo and correctly counted the clips .. I was not picturising the beauty of clips but the woodpecker.  The google image terms it to be an ‘acorn woodpecker’ a name  formally described in 1827 by the English naturalist William John Swainson under the binomial name Picus formicivorus from a specimen collected in Mexico.  The specific epithet combines the Latin formica meaning "ant" with -vorus meaning "eating".  This chirpy bird is difficult locate on the tree but for the sound it makes !!

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
Collated from soures : Wikipedia, NYtimes, Economist, & more.