Safety Pin

Safety pins – whenever you need them, they are nowhere to be found.

  • Safety pins are an invention consisting of a clasp and a pin, and is a variant of a pin.
  • While safety pins have many uses, they are frequently used to attach fabric items to each other, without the danger of accidentally stabbing one’s self with the pin.
  • Safety pins are generally made of a metal wire such as stainless steel or brass, and the length of wire is curled in the middle to form a basic spring.
  • The ancestor of the safety pin, called a ‘fibula’, is thought to have been an invention of the Ancient Greek Mycenaean community, and it was used as a brooch, as well as a pin to hold clothes together.
  • The safety pin was invented in 1849 by the American Walter Hunt, a mechanic, who created it while fiddling with a length of wire.

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  • The safety pin patent was sold for $400 USD, which equates to roughly $10,000 USD in 2008 to W R Grace Company in 1849, while Hunt is said to have used some of the money to pay a small debt owed to a friend.
  • The clasp of a safety pin is used to secure the pin closed and prevent it from poking the user.
  • From the 1970s, safety pins were a common item worn by those who embraced punk fashion, both on clothes and as piercings.
  • In countries such as Turkey, where good luck charms are made with beads attached to safety pins, there is a high incidence of ingesting the pins by young children, who accidentally swallow them.
  • Numerous improvements to safety pins were made during the late 1800s and early 1900s, although it wasn’t until 1907, that pins had a clasps similar to the modern style clasp.
Bibliography:
Kershner K, Who invented the safety pin?, 2015, HowStuffWorks, http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/everyday-tech/who-invented-the-safety-pin1.htm
Safety Pin, 2015, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_pin
A Visual History of the Safety Pin, n.d, The Museums of Everyday Design, http://museumofeverydaylife.org/exhibitions-collections/current-exhibitions/a-visual-history-of-the-safety-pin

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Eraser

Do erasers ever rub you the wrong way?

  • Erasers are inventions used to clear markings from an object, which is most often paper, and before they were invented, wax, bread, a mixture of oat bran and milk, pumice or sandstone were used to remove markings from a writing surface.
  • An ‘eraser’, once called a ‘lead-eater’, is also known as a ‘rubber’, which was the original term for the object due to the rubbing motion required to use it, while the natural material caoutchouc also became known as ‘rubber’ due to its use as an erasing tool.
  • The type of markings commonly removed by a rubber are those made with a pencil, generally graphite, although, ink, chalk and whiteboard pen marks are also able to removed with an appropriate eraser.
  • The base material of erasers is generally synthetic or natural rubber, plastic, vinyl or gum, although felt and other fibres are used for those that have the purpose of clearing whiteboard markers and chalk.
  • The discovery of caoutchouc or rubber as a useful tool for erasing, was made in the mid 1700s, and in 1770, Englishman Joseph Priestly, a scientist and theologian is said to have named the ‘eraser’, which was a later American term for the tool, a ‘rubber’.

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  • Erasers vary in colour, and are commonly white, but can range from pink to grey, and are typically found in a bar shape or as a cylinder on the end of a pencil, while some come in a kneadable or electric form.
  • Most rubber erasers undergo the process of vulcanisation, which was discovered in 1839 by American chemist Charles Goodyear, which significantly increases the rubber’s usability and long lasting nature.
  • The modern eraser, although unvulcanised at the time, is believed to have been primarily commercialised by Englishman Edward Nairne, an optician, in 1770, when he was selling cubes of rubber for the purpose of erasing.
  • Erasers generally remove markings, such as graphite, by collecting the marking’s particles in the rubber’s compound, as the rubber has greater adhesive properties than the erased surface.
  • Erasers can come in a wide variety of different shapes, sizes and colours that are commonly collected, although these more collectible orientated rubbers generally erase poorly.
Bibliography:
Eraser, 2015, How Products Are Made, http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Eraser.html
Eraser, 2015, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eraser
Garber M, 10 Things You Probably Did Not Know About Eraser Technology, 2013, The Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/08/10-things-you-probably-did-not-know-about-eraser-technology/279028/

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Paper Knife

One of the most decorated desk items – the paper knife.

  • A paper knife is an item used in a similar way to a typical knife, but is used to cut open folded papers, like envelopes and pages in a book.
  • ‘Paper knives’ are also known as ‘letter openers’, although originally they differed in appearance and purpose.
  • Paper knives typically consist of a blade and a handle, sometimes made of one material; and the blade is generally flat and blunt.
  • Paper knives became popular by the 1800s, when it became the norm to own the object as a standard desk item.
  • A paper knife commonly has a blade made from metal, like stainless steel, however the whole letter opener can also be made from ivory, wood or plastic, that is thinned out in the blade area to make it suitable for slitting paper.

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  • Paper knives were used in Europe from the 1700s to open book pages that were not cut during the manufacturing process, and they replaced pen knives that were typically used to sharpen a quill, as pen knives would cut the paper inaccurately due to their very sharp blade.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. was stabbed by Izola Curry, using a paper knife in 1958, ten years before he was assassinated, and the knife had to be surgically removed.
  • Paper knives were not used to open envelopes until the mid to late 1800s, and they were manufactured specifically for this purpose with a narrower and pointier blade than the original paper knives.
  • The handle of a paper knife is commonly ornamental, featuring an aesthetic pattern or sculptured depiction.
  • The primary concept of a paper knife has been translated into electronic machinery, that functions in much the same way.
Bibliography:
Kane K, A Paper Knife was not a Letter Opener, 2013, The Regency Redingote, http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/a-paper-knife-was-not-a-letter-opener/
Paper Knife, 2014, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_knife

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Cheque

Do you consider cheques ancient or commonplace?

  • A cheque is a slip of paper that directs a bank to give the payee money, from the bank account of a person, known as the ‘drawer’, who issued the slip.
  • ‘Cheque’ is a British English term, and it is known in the United States as a ‘check’, and it is also considered as a type of ‘bill of exchange’.
  • Cheques were invented as an easy and relatively safe way to obtain and hold money of large quantities, and they were originally known as ‘drawn notes’.
  • Early types of cheques were in use in 321 to 185 BC in India, Asia, named ‘adeshas’, and were particularly similar to the modern invention, and a similar idea was used in Ancient Rome from around 100 BC.
  • The first use of early cheques in European society were in Europe’s Venice in the 1200s, for trade purposes, and the practice of issuing bills of exchange became more widespread a few hundred years later, and were very common by the 1700s when banks were more commonplace.
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Cheques
Image courtesy of DonkeyHotey/Flickr
  • Cheques are commonly obtained in a booklet form, generally with pre-printed details of the drawer, and this practice emerged in the early 1800s.
  • With the introduction of more practical, efficient and cost effective technology, cheque use is decreasing rapidly and they are no longer used in some countries.
  • Cheques generally have the details of the drawer’s bank account number, the person the money is to be given to, the bank that issued the slip, and the amount of money to be given.
  • Cheques often expire after a certain time frame, ranging typically from 6 months to 15 months, if they have not been banked or cashed.
  • Cheques are usually smaller than a standard size piece of paper, although the largest one issued spanned 12 by 25 metres (39 by 82 feet), although large ones are usually for display and promotional purposes.
Bibliography:
Cheque, 2014, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheque
THE ROLE OF CHEQUES IN AN EVOLVING PAYMENTS SYSTEM, 2011, Australian Payments Clearing Association, http://www.apca.com.au/docs/role-of-cheques—consultations/future-of-cheques.pdf

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Ballpoint Pen

Do you ever take ballpoint pens for granted?

  • A ballpoint pen is a pen that distributes ink along a writing surface, and it has a very small ball in the writing tip that moves in the process.
  • ‘Ballpoint pens’ are also known as ‘biros’, ‘ball pens’ and ‘Biromes’.
  • The main design of a ballpoint pen originated from an 1888 patent for a pen that could write on leather, by leather tanner John Loud, an American, but the design was unsuitable for writing on paper.
  • Practical ballpoint pens were patented in 1938 by an editor of a Hungarian newspaper, László Bíró, which led to the common name of the modern pen, ‘biro’.
  • Ballpoint pens were introduced to America by Milton Reynolds, an American entrepreneur, who changed Bíró’s design in the mid 1940s, although it wasn’t until the 1950s that a more reliable pen was invented by Marcel Bich in France, that did not leak and had smooth ink flow, and was sold under the name ‘Bic’.

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  • Ballpoint pens can be disposable or refillable, often with a removable lid or a replaceable tip and reservoir, as well as retractable tips that retract back into the pen cylinder.
  • Ballpoint pens are the most commonly used writing instrument, and they are also used by some artists in their artwork, although any mistakes made generally cannot be removed, unless a pen with erasable ink is used.
  • Ballpoint pens range in colour and designs, and most often have ink coloured blue or black, and the next most popular ink colours are red and green.
  • Due to the availability of mass production, ballpoint pens have become increasingly cheaper and are more commonly used.
  • Ballpoint pens range in numerous shapes and sizes, leading some to become collector’s items; while some brands have been featured in the United State’s New York Museum of Modern Art, including the Bic Cristal pen.

 

Bibliography:
Ballpoint Pen, 2006, The Great Idea Finder, http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/ballpen.htm
Ballpoint Pen, 2014, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballpoint_pen
The History of the Ballpoint Pen, 2002, Cosmopolis, http://www.cosmopolis.ch/english/cosmo30/history_ballpoint_pen.htm

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Thumbtack

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Be careful not to drop your thumbtacks.

  • Thumbtacks are small items that have a ‘head’ attached to a sharp tip, or body, which can be inserted into a board to hold items in place or used as a marker.
  • ‘Thumbtacks’ are also known as ‘map tacks’, ‘push pins’, ‘drawing pins’, and ‘chart pins’, with various word combinations, sometimes without spaces or with hyphens.
  • Thumbtacks bodies are typically made of metal such as brass, tin, stainless steel or iron, and the head is usually plastic, wood or metal.
  • Thumbtacks are typically pushed into a softer solid, like cork, using one’s fingers and arm strength.
  • Thumbtacks traditionally have a circular or cylindrical head, although they can be other shapes, and the head can be raised, flat, bevelled or indented.

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  • Swallowing thumbtacks can cause great internal damage, including choking and tissue damage.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the thumbtack was invented as early as the mid 1870s, although the British term ‘drawing pin’ was in use sometime in the 1850s or 1860s, and patents exist for the item as early as the 1890s.
  • Thumbtacks can be dangerous if dropped and left unnoticed on the floor, as upward facing pins can be easily stepped on, although some designs are more likely to face downwards if dropped.
  • Thumbtacks were historically used by draftsmen for the purpose of attaching paper to a drawing board, hence the name ‘drawing pin’.
  • Thumbtacks come in a variety of sizes, colours and shapes, that are often used for different purposes, such as in art or as markers, and they are generally considered as stationery items.
Bibliography:
Drawing Pin, 2014, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drawing_pin
The Invention of the Push Pin and Its Usages Today, n.d, Answers, http://invent.answers.com/clothing/the-invention-of-the-push-pin-and-its-usages-today

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