History of Hat Pins

From the 1600's pins were made on a quasi-industrial scale in that a Gloucestershire manufacturer at one time employed 1500 people.

During the 1800's the industry became established, usurping the hand made pins originally used to fasten head pieces such as veils and wimples in place, and from which had evolved a naive cottage industry that was labour intensive and thus slow and costly.

Eventually Birmingham became the centre of pin making. Manufacture was spurred on by the advent of the First World War. picture of hat pin head Importing from France was one way of keeping up with demand. Alarmed at the effect the imports had on the balance of trade, Parliament passed an Act restricting the sale of pins to two days a year, at the beginning of January. Ladies saved their money all year to be spent on pins in an early example of the "January sales"! This is thought to be the source of the term “pin money.” However as Queen Victoria taxed her subjects at the beginning of each year to pay for her pins, this could also be the source of the term.

Pins became fashionable and affordable. Subsequently as with everything that eventually “goes out of fashion”... they became collectable.

Further Reading

The Encyclopedia of Hatpins and Hatpin Holders
by Lillian Baker
Hatpins and hatpin holders: An illustrated value guide
by Lillian Baker
Hat Pins & Tie Pins
by Alexandra M Rhodes
Hat Pins
by Eve Eckstein & June Firkins
Charles Horner of Halifax - A celebration of his life and work
by Tom Lawson

A number of online articles about hat pins can be found on the useful links page.