Profile America — Wednesday, April 10th. The need to pay a $15 debt sparked one of the most useful of inventions, patented on this date in 1849. Walter Hunt, a mechanic in New York, owed the debt. While he thought about how to raise the money, he fiddled with a small piece of wire. Finally, he bent the wire with a twist in the middle, creating a spring, and formed a clasp at the other end, to guard the point of the wire. He had invented the safety pin. Hunt called his device a "dress pin," and sold his rights to it for $400, little realizing that its utility would be enduring and lucrative. Manufacturing pins, needles, buttons and other fasteners is a near-billion-dollar a year business in the U.S., employing about 5,500 people. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau, online at www.census.gov.
Sources: U.S. Patent Office 2007 Economic Census, NAICS 339993
Profile America is produced by the Center for New Media and Promotions of the U.S. Census Bureau. These daily features are available as produced segments, ready to air, on a monthly CD or on the Internet at http://www.census.gov (look for "Multimedia Gallery" by the "Newsroom" button).