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A clothespin (US English) or clothes-peg (UK English) is a fastener used to hang up clothes for drying, usually on a clothes line. Clothespins often come in many different designs.


A one-piece wooden clothespin
Plastic clothespin

Not to be confused with the one-piece wooden clothes-peg for hanging up coats that was invented by the Shaker community in the 1700s. During the 1700s laundry was hung on bushes, limbs or lines to dry but no clothespins can be found in any painting or prints of the era. The clothespin for hanging up wet laundry only appears in the early 19th century patented by Jérémie Victor Opdebec.[citation needed] This design does not use springs, but is fashioned in one piece, with the two prongs part of the peg chassis with only a small distance between them—this form of peg creates the gripping action due to the two prongs being wedged apart and thus squeezing together in that the prongs want to return to their initial, resting state.[citation needed] This form of peg is often fashioned from plastic, or originally, wood. In England, clothes-peg making used to be a craft associated with gypsies, who made clothes-pegs from small, split lengths of willow or ash wood.[1]

Today, many clothes-pegs (also clothespins) are manufactured very cheaply by creating two interlocking plastic or wooden prongs, in between which is often wedged a small spring. This design was invented by David M. Smith of Springfield, Vermont, in 1853.[2][3][4] By a lever action, when the two prongs are pinched at the top of the peg, the prongs open up, and when released, the spring draws the two prongs shut, creating the action necessary for gripping.

The design by Smith was improved by Solon E. Moore in 1887. He added what he called a "coiled fulcrum" made from a single wire, this was the spring that both held the wooden pieces together and forced them to snap shut.[2]

Clothespins were further enhanced by the invention of stainless steel clothespins that do not rust or decay with outdoor use. Rather than using a torsion spring that often twists, causing the clothespin to fall apart, they rely on a strong, trapped, compression spring that results in a stronger grip.

Other uses[edit]

May 6 celebrations[edit]

A small but growing number of people are celebrating the humble clothes peg on May 6, which often falls on a bank holiday in the United Kingdom with apposite sunny weather.

The first peg day celebration took place in the Thomas Sheraton public house, in Stockton on Tees in 2003 and the tradition is now in its second decade.

It is said that pegs were inadvisably purchased as a romantic gift, and that those present at the gift giving were forced to promote the virtues of the clasping device in order to prevent the recipient taking offence.

Public art[edit]

One famous clothespin is a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg, entitled Clothespin. It is in Philadelphia across the street from the City Hall, and can be seen in the movie Trading Places.[5]

There is a 5-foot clothespin grave marker in the Middlesex, Vermont cemetery.


Spring-type wooden clothespin

During the production of a movie, commercial, music video etc., a spring-type clothespin is called a "CP 47", "C47", "47", "peg", "ammo", or "bullet". It is most useful on the set since lights used on film sets quickly become far too hot to touch; a wooden C47 is used to attach a color correction gel or diffusion to the barn doors on a light.[6] The wooden clothespins do not transmit heat very effectively, and therefore are safe to touch, even when attached to hot lights for a significant period of time. Plastic clothespins are not used as plastic would melt with the heat of the lights, and metal would transfer the heat, making the clothespin too hot to touch. People like gaffers, grips, electricians, and production assistants may keep a collection of C47s clipped to clothing or utility belt at all times.[7] Hence the nickname "bullet", as so many crew members clip a number of C47s to their utility belts, much like an old west gunslinger would carry extra cartridges (which are often inaccurately referred to as bullets) on his gun belt.

When a performer is in full makeup they sometimes cannot drink from a cup so they drink from a straw. When the bottle or cup is too deep for the straw a C47 is clipped an inch from the top of the straw to keep the straw from falling into the drink.


In Lutherie, clothes-pegs are often used to glue on kerfing during the production of guitars, mandolins, and other stringed instruments.[8][9][10]


  1. ^ "Crafts". Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  2. ^ a b Greenbaum, Hilary; Charles Wilson (May 11, 2012). "Who Made That Clothespin?". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved May 11, 2012. The first design that resembles the modern clothespin was patented in 1853 by David M. Smith, a prolific Vermont inventor. 
  3. ^ Lahey, Anita (Fall 2006). "The Better Clothespin". American Heritage of Invention & Technology 22 (2). Archived from the original on January 19, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  4. ^ A US patent 10163 A, David M. Smith, "Spring-clamp for clothes-lines", published 1853-10-25 
  5. ^ Alice L. George (2006). Philadelphia: A Pictorial Celebration. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 112. ISBN 1-4027-2384-9.
  6. ^ Box, Harry (1993). Set Lighting Technician's Handbook (1st ed.). Focal Press. pp. 141, 347, 349. ISBN 0-240-80161-X.
  7. ^ Rahmel, Dan (2004). Nuts and Bolts Filmmaking: Practical Techniques for the Guerilla Filmmaker. Focal Press. p. 196. ISBN 0-240-80546-1.
  8. ^ "The Body". Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  9. ^ "Luthiery". Norse Woodsmith. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  10. ^

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