pin. One of the earliest human artifacts, pins were at first made of thorns, bone, or wood and were used as clothing fasteners, hairpins, and meat skewers. These long, single-shaft pins were early imitated in metal and were often tipped with ornamental knobs. The fibulae, prototype of the safety pin and probably one of the earliest applications of the spring coil, was popular from early antiquity through medieval times. It was the forerunner of the modern brooch through the hinged pin, which was developed by the Romans. Bent-wire hairpins are believed to have originated in England in the 16th cent.; the modern bobby pin was introduced in the 20th cent. In the 14th and 15th cent. in England the costliness and scarcity of plain pins caused Parliament to limit their sale to the first two days of January, for which women saved money all year—hence the term “pin money.” In the 19th cent., with the fashion for enormous hats came the development of ornate jeweled hatpins.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Clothing, Jewelry, and Personal Adornment