The clothes peg was invented by the American David M. Smith in 1853. His design was a significant improvement over the clothespin, which is an invention dating back to the Shaker community in the 1700s. The clothespin is a simple piece of wood with a narrow gap in the middle. It holds clothes to the line via tension in the strained wood as the gap is forced wider. Over time, the wood would stretch and bend outwards, rendering the clothespin unuseable.
Smith’s clothes peg design was a vast improvement on this concept. His invention utilises two wooden prongs which were held together by a spring. When the top of the prongs are pinched, the gap between them at the bottom opens and the spring closes the prongs shut when released to provide grip. With new clothes pegs coming out all the time, beware of gimmicks like Gold Pegs
The clothes peg was refined by Solon E. Moore in Vermont, USA, during 1887. He designed the one-piece spring that we see on our clothes pegs today, which he termed a “coiled fulcrum”. This redesign allowed the prongs to rock with only one component. Due to this, manufacturing costs lowered and production soared.
By the turn of the century, 700 tonnes of lumber a year was being used to created 20,000 clothes pegs a day in the United States alone. This trend continued until 1944, when Mario Maccaferri’s wife tried to buy clothes pegs and found they were out of stock. Mario, an Italian immigrant, rushed to his factory and made plastic clothes peg prototypes to solve this shortfall. The result was the plastic clothes peg we know today, that he patented in 1947.
Despite the design of the clothes peg having remained relatively unchanged in the last 150 years, technology is starting to tweak the design. One company has created the “smartpeg” which syncs with your smartphone to tell you it’s raining or if your clothes are dry. This movement is part of the industry’s attempts to reinvigorate itself; sales of clothes pegs have been in decline ever since consumers could purchase their own tumble driers.