Sunday, April 10, 2011

For the person for whom small things do not exist,

the great is not great.
~ Jose Ortega Y Gasset

At times I feel like the cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland .This illustration is from the 1866 edition drawn by John Tenniel(1820-1914). The cat constantly raised philosophical points vexing Alice, but then he had a way to twist humor into his ideas. The world today does require thought provoking ideas, but we sure do need a dose of humor also. And, then again, it is perhaps the small things that give us pause...which brings me to this week's "lesson."

I received a shipment of these wonderful wreaths made from folded pages from old books...and I have them with sheet music also. I am seriously promoting American made...these are created by a woman from the midwest...
Anyway, she packages them with a nice large bag clipped at the top with a clothespin, a clothespin that has been stamped with French--don't ask...I learned Spanish!.

I got to thinking about clothespins...curiosity gets the cat, you know. In 1998 The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History had an exhibition titled “American Clothespins,” which consisted in part of displays of patent models of clothespins from as long ago as the 1850s. In America, 60% of households have automatic dryers, so I am sure there are younger children here who have no idea what these are for.
From the Smithsonian exhibit it was noted that the earliest American patent for a clothespin, issued in March 1832, described a bent strip of hickory held together with a wooden screw. It was impractical. Rain or even dampness would cause the screw to swell, rendering the pin inoperable. It took 21 more years for an improvement to emerge that would be deemed worthy of manufacture (if briefly): the “spring-clamp for clotheslines,” invented by David M. Smith of Springfield, Vermont, in 1853, and made of two wooden “legs” hinged together by a metal spring.

This was the beginning of the end of the uncontested reign of the straight wooden clothespin, a cylindrical strip of wood with a slit up the middle. People had either carved those themselves or purchased them from traveling peddlers who had crafted them by hand. (Frequently these clothespins were given decorative knobs that served well as heads when children turned them into tiny dolls.) Smith’s invention, the earliest incarnation of the clothespin in most common use today, was to be tweaked and modified endlessly: 146 new patents were granted in the mid-nineteenth century alone, most modifying the shape or material of the spring or hinge in order to either improve performance or simplify manufacture.

Philadelphia is known for its Liberty Bell, but also in the downtown area, you can see a giant clothespin...Claes Oldenburg’s 45-foot-high, 10-ton sculpture stands in front of the Center Square Building at 15th and Market Streets, near City Hall.

By the late 1950s the Penley Corporation, founded in 1923 by three brothers in the logging business, was turning out 120 spring clothespins a minute. Richard Penley, the grandson of one of the company’s founders, says the clothespin has always been surprisingly difficult to make. “The disadvantage of working with wood is that you can cut a hundred boards of a particular log and every one of them has a different grain structure. When you cut it into small pieces and dry it, you have a great deal of variation from one piece to the next.”

By 1970 Penley was one of four companies still making clothespins in the United States; the others had either closed or begun importing. In 2001 Penley, too, shut down its clothespin operation and turned to Chinese suppliers. That left the National Clothespin Company in Montpelier, Vermont, the only manufacturer in the country; it gave up the following year. Wooden clothespins are now assembled exclusively in China. Rising manufacturing and labor costs, and dryers, are not the whole story. “Disposable diapers probably did as much damage to the industry as anything else,” Penley says. “Prior to the invention of a diaper you could throw away, families were washing diapers all the time.”

Then, there are the homeowner communities who forbid hanging clothes out to dry. But, bottom line, another little thing done in China, another little simple energy saver turned over to big utilities.

See...philosophy hides under every thought...anyway, maybe you want to hang out...unless you live in one of those socialist neighborhoods!

1 comment:

The Cinnamon Stick said...

There is NOTHING better than climbing into a bed that has been freshly made with linens straight from the clothesline - a simple country pleasure! Hmmmmmm when was the last time I hung the sheets on the line?....quite long ago but thinking this is my day off - the weather is going to be 80 degrees and just maybe I will hang the sheets on the clothesline ( I do have one of those...LOL!!) Thanks, as always, for the inspiration!!! XO