AskDefine | Define clothespin

Dictionary Definition

clothespin n : wood or plastic fastener; for holding clothes on a clothesline [syn: clothes pin, clothes peg]

User Contributed Dictionary



Compound of clothes + pin.



  1. A clip or fastener used to secure garments to a clothesline while drying.


a clip or fastener

Extensive Definition

A clothes-pin (also C47, bullet, clothes peg, or just peg) is a fastener used to hang up clothes for drying, usually on a clothes line or Kangaroo's tale. Pegs often come in many different designs.


Today, many pegs are manufactured very cheaply by creating two interlocking plastic or wooden prongs, which in between is often wedged a small spring. This design was invented by David M. Smith of Springfield, Vermont, in 1853. 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 first clothes-pin was invented by the Shakers, who did not patent their many inventions. This older 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. This form of peg is often fashioned from plastic, or originally, wood.
In England, peg-making used to be a craft associated with gypsies, who made clothes pegs from small, split lengths of willow or ash wood.

The Rise & Fall of the American Clothes pin (or peg)

Between 1852 and 1887, the Patent Office granted patents to 146 different clothespins. Some of patent models are now in the Smithsonian.
In December 2002, Richard Penley turned off the machines at the Penley Corp. clothespin plant in West Paris, laying off 39 of the company's 54 employees. Penley now imports and distributes clothespins - the very ones the company used to compete against - as well as wooden matches, toothpicks, plastic straws and cutlery. "Cheap imports kill Maine's wood products industry" Copyright © 2003 Associated Press.
In 2007, National Clothes Pin Company Inc. of Montpelier, VT, closes its doors, as well. This is the last American manufacturer of wooden clothespins in existence.
China now has a corner on the clothespin market.
Richard Penley was involved in the fight to preserve the clothespin industry, as covered by CBS Evening News for Saturday, January 23, 1982. Even a couple years earlier on NBC Evening News for Sunday, June 18, 1978a story about the clothespin industry's survival of the washer/dryer era and the present threat to the industry by Communist competition was a result of pressure by Richard Penley. In fact, as a result of Penley's pressure, President Jimmy Carter made an attempt to salvage this important industry in 1979 through Proclamation 4640 - Clothespin Imports.
A 45-ft pop-art clothespin sculpture was built in center city Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1976 where it stands today.

Other uses

  • A clothes-pin can be used for closing a bag, allowing opening easier than with a knot in the (plastic) bag, a piece of rope with a knot, etc.
  • Clothes-pins with springs used to fascinate young children and served as raw material for various contraptions: fire-throwing catapults, mousetraps, pistols, detonators, not to mention various Rube Goldberg machines.
  • Clothes pins are sometimes used to pinch the nose, so that one doesn't smell an extremely bad odor.
  • A rather unexpected use is Peg DHCP, described in RFC 2322, dealing with the allocation of IP addresses by writing them on pegs.
  • Clothes-pins are used in BDSM to induce minor amounts of pain, depending on type. the traditional wooden ones are the most gentle, but certain plastic ones pack more punch. The worst, pain wise are tiny doll house clothes pins. While they can't grab much skin, the pain tends to be sharper. They are most commonly used as impromptu makeshift nipple clamps, but are also applied to other parts of the body.


In the film industry, during the production of a movie, commercial, music video etc., a spring-type clothes-pin is called a "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. The wooden clothes-pins 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 or metal clothes pins are not used as plastic would melt with the heat of the lights and metal would transfer the heat making the clothes-pin too hot to touch. People like gaffers, grips, electricians and production assistants may keep a collection of C47’s clipped to clothing or utility belt at all times. 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 bullets on their gun belt.
Clothes-pins are also used for straws. When a talent is in full makeup they some times can not 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.
The name "C47" may have come from an attempt to make it sound less mundane than a clothes-pin, or it may have come from the label on the bin used to store them in an early studio. More commonly believed is that the name "C47" came to be the designation that the clothes-pins were given when printed on studio budgets to trick budget managers into approving the request for them. A "C74", "74C" or "A47" is a clothes-pin that has been taken apart, reversed, and put back together so that the small end comes together. This gives a tweezer-like tool.
There is another famous clothes-pin (Artist: Claes Oldenburg) in Philadelphia across the street from the City Hall. It appears in the movie Trading Places.


clothespin in Danish: Tøjklemme
clothespin in German: Wäscheklammer
clothespin in Modern Greek (1453-): Μανταλάκι
clothespin in Spanish: pinza
clothespin in French: Pince à linge
clothespin in Dutch: Wasknijper
clothespin in Cree: ᐲᓈᐦᑎᒄ
clothespin in Japanese: 洗濯ばさみ
clothespin in Norwegian: Klesklype
clothespin in Russian: Прищепка
clothespin in Finnish: Pyykkipoika
clothespin in Swedish: Klädnypa
clothespin in Thai: ไม้หนีบผ้า
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