It is most likely that thorns or skewers were originally used as fasteners for garments. Following these, different appliances were used, such as hooks, buckles, and laces, many of which we may suppose were intended for ornaments as well as use.
The pins that have been found in Egyptian and Scandinavian tombs are made of gold, silver, brass, bronze, and iron, many of them twelve inches in length, weighing eight or ten ounces, and having artistically cut heads of precious stones, metal, ivory, or wood.
Pins were first manufactured in England, in the sixteenth century. Iron wire was cut the proper length and filed to a point at one end and twisted into a head at the other. This was a slow process, four or five hundred pins being a good day's work.
The manufacture of cheap and useful pins was introduced in England, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, and Birmingham soon became the centre of this industry. In the United States, pins were not successfully manufactured until after the invention of the Howe machine, in 1832. The English pin is still considered the best in the market.
The present process consists, first, in pulling and cutting the wire, which it does at the rate of one hundred and forty pin lengths or blanks per minute. The machine then seizes each one of the blanks, and a little concave-faced hammer hits the head of each one three taps and "upsets" it to a head, while it grips it into a countersunk hole between its teeth and lays it sideways in a groove; there levers and springs point the blanks with great rapidity. When finished, they fall into a box that is ready to receive them.
They are then polished and passed through a machine which discards all defective ones. After being assorted and stuck into a paper which has been prepared for them, they are ready for the market.
It is said that Spanish pin manufacturers were allowed to sell them only during the Christmas holidays; it therefore became the custom for gentlemen to give the ladies of the family money with which to buy pins at Christmastide. From this custom, the term pin money originated.