As the first babies of 2022 enter the world, the method of keeping them clean and dry has changed greatly from the previous century.
Both diapers and diaper pins were not available until the 19th century. American mechanic Walter Hunt (1796-1859) devised and patented the first safety pin in 1849. Hunt sold his patent (US #6281) to W.R. Grace and Company for $400, which produced the clasping pins in various sizes. The Sears, Robuck and Co. catalog of 1908 offered the No. 3 size pin, suitable for keeping babies cloth diaper snug, three dozen for 8 cents and an additional 3 cents for postage.
While new parents had used various lengths of fabric for diapering, with the name “diaper” originating from the type of weave of the cloth used for that purpose, diapers were not commercially available until 1887, when Maria Allen began cutting the diaper fabric into various lengths, hemming the edges, and selling them by the dozen ready to use.
A dozen diapers were sold in two sizes through the 1908 Sears catalog. Measuring 18 by 36 inches for one dollar, or 22 by 44 inches for $1.35, postage was an additional 34 cents. Triangular quilted diapers sold two for 23 cents with postage an additional 7 cents.
Following World War II, both diapers and diaper pins received upgrades. The pin’s metal shield could be molded from colored plastic, often in the shape of an animal so that they were cute, as well as practical.
The development of the first disposable diaper began in 1956, when Procter & Gamble’s engineer Victor Mills devised a paper diaper with a plastic outer layer. Marketed as “Pampers” in 1961, they still needed diaper pins to secure the diaper in place, but eliminated the need for rubber pants to prevent leaks.
In 1968, Kimberly Clark introduced “Kimbies” with adhesive tabs, thus eliminating the use of diaper pins except for those who continue to use cloth diapers.