"I was watching a show and they were talking about bobby pins. When were they invented and why are they called that?" The Newton Falls Public Library staff enjoys inquiries about the origins of things.
The hunt for information about bobby pins turned out to be a bit more convoluted than the staff anticipated. The general online opinion about the origin of the name is that it became commonly called bobby pin in the 1920s, when the bob hairstyle became popular. Where things become more confusing is who invented them. Depending on the website selected, the inventor could be Jim Gaylord, Sol H. Goldberg, Luis J. Marcus, Robert Pinney, Robert "Bobby" H. Pinsworth, Bobby T. Plympton, and Sol H. Smolen. Other sites also say that for many years, the Bob Lépine Corporation held the trademark for the term bobby pin.
The paper, The Bobby Pin Revealed by M. E. Pilou Miller, Spring 2006, p.7 includes a chart which lists the manufacturers of the bobby pin. Miller lists the Solite company of Bronx, New York; Sol Smolen, as the manufacturer of the Debby bobby pins in 1917. As of 1920, Hump Hairpin Manufacturing Company of Chicago; Illinois, Sol H. Goldberg, President, produced the Hold-Bob pins.
The archives for People Magazine, Passages,March 26,1990, vol.33, no.12 has an obituary for Luis J .Marcus, who owned a beauty-supply firm. It attributes the invention of bobby pin to him "during the flapper era, when dancer Irene Castle bobbed her hair and then appealed to Marcus because her newly cut locks were too short for standard hair fasteners of the day. Marcus concocted a short pin out of wire remarkably similar to the bobby pin women are still using today."
Whoever invented it, we are sure he never anticipated all the uses we discovered for the lowly bobby pin. The blog, www.wisebread.com lists 25 practical uses for bobby pins. Besides using them to fasten hair in place, the list includes using them as a zipper pull and a bookmark, as well as using two of them as a lock pick. There are also multiple YouTube videos on the proper use of the bobby pin.