Walter Hunt – The safety pin inventor who gave away a fortune
Greatest inventor you never heard of

Among Hunt’s inventions are a restaurant steam table, a tree-felling saw, a ships ice-breaker, inkstands, a rifle, a cartridge,  hard-coal-burning stove, ice plough, shoe heel, and a ceiling-walking circus device.

safety pin

And of course the safety pin.

The one thing his inventions had in common is he didn’t profit from any of them.

In fact, he consistently sold the rights to his designs for much less than they were worth.

One patent Hunt sold went on to become the basis for the Winchester Repeater, one of the most famous guns of all time.

He decided not to patent the sewing machine he invented in 1834.

Legend has it that his fifteen-year-old daughter persuaded him that his sewing machine would put seamstresses out of work. 

In New York alone, more than ten thousand women worked in the factories.

It was a painful mistake, as other inventors stole the idea and made millions.

Sharp Invention

Hunt invented the safety pin to pay off a $15 debt.

He played around with a spool of wire and – three hours later, reportedly, we had the modern safety pin.

Two principal improvements were the safe cover for the pin head, and the coiled spring at the other end to ensure the head stayed covered.

His patent promised no danger or of “bending the pin, or wounding the fingers.”

Parents and babies have been spared blood and screams ever since.

He was granted U.S. Patent #6,281 on April 10, 1849, for his invention but later sold his patent rights to the safety pin for four hundred dollars.

And he paid off his debt.

April 10th is Safety Pin Day.

Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.