The history of everyday things is fascinating as it illuminates the day-to-day actions of history instead of just the grand battles and the people involved. Great things can come from humble beginnings and the clothespin is just one such item. — Douglas
The clothespeg has an ancient look. The simplest sort, with rounded head and body carved from a single piece of wood, might have come from an Egyptian tomb or a Mesoamerican midden. Their shape is vaguely anthropomorphic, like a forked mandrake root (“dolly peg” is the name in commerce), suggesting an offering to the gods of fertility, or of nature. It would be no surprise to find one in an Iron Age settlement, still attached to an Iron Age loincloth.
Odd, then, that the first such peg is not recorded until the early 19th century. The Roman soldiers at Vindolanda, on Hadrian’s Wall, did not peg up the thick socks for which they wrote desperate letters home; Lady Macbeth’s maid did not peg up the damp, still-spotted gown. Even Samuel Pepys did not expect to see his shirt, soused after a session at the Cock in Fleet Street, tethered with small wooden clips to a line. Instead, the clothespeg came only just in time to pinion Shelley’s tear-stained handkerchiefs from the wild west wind.