Find of the Month

June 2019 - Hatpin regulations

Comptroller File 52175

The first recorded plea to the Seattle City Council for hatpin regulations came in 1911. The writer, J.S. Wheeler, included a news clipping highlighting a case in San Francisco where a barber had his arm amputated after an “accidental stab” and was in danger of death from blood poisoning. Wheeler wrote,

Thousands of less serious accidents occur daily which never reach the public press. It would seem that the time had arrived when drastic measures were necessary to put a stop to the use of protruding hatpins, which in crowded places, are a positive menace to the public safety. This matter has been taken up in other Cities and ordinances passed, and Seattle should do so at once. The injury of today is to a member of other family [sic], tomorrow it may be to a member of your household.

Two years later, the Seattle Federation of Women’s Clubs sent City Council draft language for a hatpin ordinance. In their accompanying letter, they said they had delayed suggesting legislation in hopes that “the thoughtlessness of some of our women might be overcome by more personal methods of appeal. But while waiting for improvement through these milder means – a serious menace to the public safety exists” for which the only solution was regulation.

The week after the Federation letter was written, Ordinance 31419 was introduced. The ordinance declared it unlawful for any person to wear a hatpin “so that the sharp end…shall project more than one and one-quarter inches from the crown of such hat or head covering,” or extend beyond the hat brim, or “extend or project in any manner…as to be likely to, or in such manner as might, wound any person or thing or endanger life or property.” Anyone found to be wearing a hatpin in violation of the regulations could be fined up to $100 or given a jail term of up to 30 days (or both).

The ordinance was promptly passed into law, and was not repealed until 1967.