1902 Encyclopedia > Pin


PIN. A pin is a small spike, usually of metal, with a bulbed head, or some other arrangement for preventing the spike passing entirely through the cloth or other material it is used for fastening together. In one form or another pins are of the highest antiquity, and it may be assumed that their use is coeval with human dress of any kind, the earliest form doubtless being a natural thorn, such as is still often seen fastening the dresses of peasant women in upper Egypt. Pins of bronze, and bronze brooches in which the pin is the essential feature, are of common occurrence among the remains of the bronze age. Brooches and pins on which considerable artistic ingenuity was lavished were universally used among the civilized nations of antiquity (see BROOCH, vol. iv. p. 369). The ordinary domestic pin had become in the 15th century an article of sufficient importance in England to warrant legislative notice, as in 1483 the importation of pins was prohibited by statute. In 1540 Queen Catherine received pins from France, and again in 1543 an Act was passed providing that "no person shall put to sale any pinnes but only such as shall be double headed, and have the heads soldered fast to the shank of the pinnes, well smoothed, the shank well shapen, the points well and round filed, canted, and sharpened." At that time pins of good quality were made of brass; but a large proportion of those against which the legislative enactment was directed were made of iron wire blanched and passed as brass pins. To a large extent the supply of pins in England was received from France till about 1626, in which year the manufacture was introduced into Gloucestershire by John Tilsby. His business flourished so well that he soon gave employment to 1500 persons, and Stroud pins attained a high reputation. In 1636 the pinmakers of London formed a corporation, and the manufacture was subsequently established at Bristol and Birmingham, the latter town ultimately becoming the principal centre of the industry. So early as 1775 the attention of the enterprising colonists in Carolina was drawn to the manufacture by the offer of prizes for the first native-made pins and needles. At a later date several pin-making machines were invented in the United States. During the war of 1812, when the price of pins rose enormously, the manufacture was actually started, but the industry was not fairly successful till about the year 1836. Previous to this an American, Mr Lemuel W. Wright of Massachusetts, had in 1824 secured in England a patent for a pin-making machine, which established the industry on its present basis.

The old form of pin, which has become obsolete only within the memory of middle-aged persons, consisted of a shank with a separate head of fine wire twisted round and secured to it. The formation and attachment of this head were the principal points to which inven-tive ingenuity was directed. The old method of heading involved numerous operations, which had to be expeditiously accomplished, and, notwithstanding the expertness of the workers, the result was frequently unsatisfactory. Vine wire for heads was first wound on a lathe round a spit the exact circumference of the pin shanks to be headed. In this way a long elastic spiral was produced which had next to be cut into heads, each consisting of two complete turns of the spiral. These heads were softened by annealing and made into a heap for the heading boy, whose duty was to thrust a number of shanks into the heap and let as many as might be fit themselves with heads. Such shanks as came out thus headed were passed to the header, who with a falling block and die arrangement compressed together shank and head of such a number as his die-block was fitted for. All the other operations of straightening the wire, cutting, pointing, &c., were separately performed, and these numer-ous details connected with the production of a common pin were seized on by Adam Smith as one of the most remarkable illustrations of the advantages of the division of labour.

The beautiful automatic machinery by which pins are now made of single pieces of wire is an invention of the present century. In 1817 a communication was made at the Patent Office by Seth Hunt, describing a machine for making pins with " head, shaft, and point in one entire piece." By this machine a suitable length of wire was cut off and held in a die till a globular head was formed on one end by compression, and the other end was pointed by the re-volution around it of a roughened steel wheel. This machine does not appear to have come into use; but in 1824 "Wright patented the pin-making apparatus above referred to as the parent form of the machinery now employed. An extension for five years, from 1838, of Wright's patent with certain additions and improvements, was secured by Henry Shuttleworth and Daniel Foote Tayler, and in the hands of Tayler's firm in Birmingham the development of the machine has principally taken place. In a pin-making machine as now used wire of suitable gauge running off a reel is drawn in and straightened by passing between straightening pins or studs set in a table. When a pin length has entered it is caught by lateral jaws, beyond which enough of the end projects to form a pin-head. Against this end a steel punch advances and compresses the metal by a die arrangement into the form of a head. The pin length is immediately cut off and the headed piece drops into a slit suffi-ciently wide to pass the wire through but retain the head. The pins are consequently suspended by the head while their projecting points are held against a revolving file-cut steel roller, along the face of which they are carried by gravitation till they fall out at the extremity well-pointed pins. The pins are next purified by boiling in weak beer ; and, so cleaned, they are arranged in a copper pan in layers alternating with layers of grained tin. The contents of the pan are covered with water over which a quantity of argol (bitartrate of potash) is sprinkled, and after boiling for several hours the brass pins are coated with a thin deposit of tin, which gives them their silvery appearance. They are then washed in clean water and dried by revolving in a barrel, mixed with dry bran or fine sawdust, from which they are winnowed finished pins.

A large proportion of the pins sold are stuck into paper by an automatic machine not less ingenious than the pin-making machine itself. Mourning pins are made of iron wire, finished by immersing in black japan and drying in a stove. A considerable variety of pins, including the ingeniously coiled, bent, and twisted nursery safety pin, ladies' hair pins, &c, are also made by automatic machinery. The sizes of ordinary pins range from the 3J-inch stout blanket pin down to the finest slender gilt pins used by entomologists, 4500 of which weigh about an ounce. A few years ago it was estimated that in the United Kingdom there were made daily 50,000,000 pins, of which 37,000,000 were produced in Birmingham, and the weight of brass and iron wire then annually consumed was stated at 1275J tons, of which one-eighth part was iron wire. The annual value of the whole British trade was stated at £222,000. At the same time the consumption of wire in pin-making in the United States was estimated to be from 350 to 500 tons per annum, the value of the trade being £112,000. (J. PA.)

The above article was written by: James Paton.

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