A newspaper advertisement from the early 1900s for the "Moore Push Family" of products.

The humble push pin is so familiar it’s weird to think of it being invented. But it was. And the dude who invented it? Yep. From Philly.

Our headline this week comes from today’s Evening Public Ledger in 1916:

“Edwin Moore, Made Rich and Famous By Push Pin, Expires”

Per wiki, the “drawing pin,” or thumbtack, dates back to the 1750s. But it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that the now-ubiquitous push pin emerged. Bulletin boards (and “Always Sunny” memes) would never be the same.

The man responsible for this development was Edwin Moore.

The son of a clergyman, Moore grew up in Bethlehem and got his college degree from Princeton in civil engineering.

In 1897 — the year he turned 21 — Moore had a life-changing idea. At the time, according to the Evening Public Ledger, Moore “was engaged in the photography business.”

And he grew agitated trying to fasten his prints to various drying racks. Normal tacks weren’t cutting it.

Moore designed a new type of pin with a “handle,” allowing him to more easily fasten and unfasten his photos. He patented his “push pin” in 1900.

That same year, Moore invested $112 dollars ($100 of it borrowed), rented a room in Philly, and founded the Moore Push-Pin Company.

Moore sold about $1,500 worth of product that first year. And his first major client was indeed a MAJOR client.

He sold $1,000 worth of pins to a fast-growing photography company out of Rochester:

Eastman Kodak

Buoyed by the Kodak deal and subsequent marketing campaigns, the Moore Push-Pin Company took off. Its first offices were at 125 S. 11th Street (where Jefferson Hospital is now).

In 1912, the company moved to a larger campus in NW Philly’s Wayne Junction area.

The company remained in NW Philly until the 1970s.

I believe it occupied the old Keystone Dry Plate Works building on Berkeley Street (although I’m not 100% sure).

After leaving Philly, the Moore Push-Pin Company relocated to Springfield, Montgomery County.

Much has changed in the 120+ years since Moore’s invention, but the pin itself looks pretty similar to what you see today.

Beyond a change in materials (the handle was originally made of glass, according to newspaper accounts), a push pin has always looked…like a push pin.

Unfortunately, Edwin Moore never got to reflect on the staying power of his little innovation. He died in 1916 following a short and sudden illness.

He was 41 years old.


Originally tweeted by Avi Wolfman-Arent (@Avi_WA) on March 16, 2023.

Avi Wolfman-Arent is co-host of Studio 2 and a broadcast anchor on 90.9 FM. He was previously an education reporter with WHYY, where he's worked since 2014. Prior to that he covered nonprofits for the...