A Peculiar Bit of Trivia By E. Ayers
A little glitch getting to the blog, but thanks to Caroline, I made it, and I'm so excited to be here. When Caroline Clemmons and Celia Yeary asked me to become a permanent part of the Sweethearts of the West, I was thrilled. Writing historical westerns is…let's just say I have a quirky mind and I think it shows in what I write. I write historical westerns with a love story tucked in it. Surely, you will discover that as you read my posts and my books, and I hope you will do both!
In school, I was taught it's not how much you know, but often how fast can you find the answer. That premise is becoming obsolete with the computer and Internet search engines. But the Dewey Decimal System was like a neon lure to my young fertile mind. It was as though the entire world's database of knowledge was in those card files. I soon discovered that knowledge was fun. To this day, I love knowing how stuff works. Why did gold form here and diamonds there? How does steam turn motors? Who figured out you could burn coal? Who figured out oysters were edible? And how did they get that center in the dessert?
As an adult, I continued with my strange desire to know about things and often experimented in the kitchen with such things as yeast. I wanted to know if I could grow it from scratch. My garden became organic, because I couldn't afford chemicals and I didn't want to use them. Lack of garden space had me looking up information on companion plantings. Today, I know how to create yeast from scratch. I've made my own candles and soaps - not out of need, but because I thought it was fun learning how-to. Those are the tidbits I pull on as I write.
And when I do stop to research something, I often wind up discovering something else. Will I ever need to know about staplers for my writing? Probably not, but it's stored in my head, in case I do. Except by then, I’ll forget his name, because I'm terrible with names, so I’ll have to do another search. It was a search for information about early sewing machines for home use that sent me down the path of looking at safety pins.
Walter Hunt was one of those men who stand out in history for the oddest reasons. Some say he was a genius, while others claim he lacked business sense. He was definitely a colorful character in our American history for he was an inventor. He had the ability to see a need for things and to
Go way back in history a few thousand years and there was the straight pin. They didn't have buttons as fasteners for clothing back then. Buttons were only decorations. In fact, it would take until the thirteenth century AD before buttons and buttonholes were used for securing clothing tightly to the body. (I wonder who decided that you could take a decorative button, push it though a slit in the material, and it would hold? And why did it take them so darn long to figure that out?)
It was in the fourteenth century BC that clasp-like things appeared. They were used mostly to keep clothes closed, especially cloaks. (Try saying clasps keep clothes closed, especially cloaks really fast three times.) Often the clasps were coiled things that swirled into fabric. But eventually they began to resemble a violin bow or bow saw in shape. They kept clothing closed and became decorative items.
So up until Walter Hunt decided to play with some wire, there was a little spring-loaded or a
hinged pin used for brooches. The sharp point merely slipped under a flat
plate. Well, I can image that that poky point slipped out frequently and
stabbed the wearer. So Walter Hunt's little patent on the safety pin changed
|U.S. Patent Office - inventor Walter Hunt
And it wasn't until Samuel Slocum came along in the 1800's and invented a machine that would make pins with heads did we finally have what we now know as straight pins used in sewing. (He’s the one who invented the stapler.) Slocum didn't invent the pin with the head, that was William Lockwood in 1772, Slocum merely figured out how to make them quickly and cheaply.
So what do all these odd facts have to do with the West? Lots and nothing. It meant women could stop tying diapers on their babies and use a safety pin. (Although mothers would have to wait a bit before they had a locking cap on that pin.) And those women who quilted had a pin that wouldn't vanish into the fabric as they worked. It was a fascinating time in history because of manufacturing and all the advancements. These things trickled into society and made life easier. But not every woman had them.
To add a bit of humor into the mix, pin money meant they had an extra penny or two left in the budget to buy pins or some other "extravagant" item. Think purchasing power or the flow of money out of the budget. Egg money came from selling eggs giving an income or money coming into the household budget. Yes, nest egg is the result of saving egg money.
And as for that mousetrap? They've been around for hundred's of years. But that simple snap trap hasn't. We have to wait until 1894 when William C. Hooker invented the spring-loaded snap trap that is close to what is in use today.
It's all a bit convoluted, but it does affect our stories. So what starts as a simple decision to check the facts on something small, sends us down strange paths. Did you know that the kilt pin was never used to pin both pieces of fabric together? When will I ever need that piece of trivia? Aye, maybe when Hamish Campbell decides to settle Creed's Crossing, Wyoming. Or maybe not. I don't want to think about his kilt flapping in the Wyoming breeze!