The Invention of the Modern Cloth Diaper- 1940 and the first Pinless Diaper

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Have you ever thought about the history of cloth diapers and how they evolved from simple flats to the modern marvels of invention many of us use today?

At one point in recent memory even flats with pins and rubber pants were the modern diapers.  Prior to the invention of the safety pin in the late 1800′s diapering methods relied more on the babies being swaddled;  some cultures stuffed grasses into animal skins.  Then there was the “let is drop where it may and cover it with ashes” technique popular in the Middle Ages.  The diaper pin made it possible to fold a cloth and create what we know as a diaper, and by the 1890′s babies had triangular folded diapers secured by a pin.

Americans are constantly trying to make life easier.  Diaper services became popular in the 1930′s and were one of the ways it became less labor intensive for families to diaper their babies.  Still, this was only helpful if you were able to afford one.  Even with a diaper service pins were definitely still involved.

Pinless cloth diaper invention

It wasn’t until 1940, after 15 years of experimenting, that Joseph LaKritz announced the first pinless diaper.  The diaper is still rather rectangular in shape, without the contouring shape that would come later, in 1948 by another inventor.   Still, having a pinless option was a leap towards the future and innovation in design that had ease of use and safety in mind.

The diaper used a buckle type system that allowed it to close safely (no pins) and to grow with the baby since the belt was adjustable.  It was made to come up higher on the baby for extra “warmth” and there were openings for the belts to pass through on the other end of the diaper to keep it on the baby.  Unfolded, evidenced by the patent figures above, it looked like it could easily say “Kiss the Cook” due to its rather apron-like appearance.

Joseph LaKritz was motivated to invent the pinless diaper not because he was a father trying to make his life easier, but because a friend’s baby choked on a diaper pin.  LaKritz was a clothing designer who just happened to try his hand at improving the cloth diaper.

A reporter asked LaKrtiz “Is it easy to put on?” to which he replied “The easiest thing you ever saw.  So easy a three-months-old baby could do it.” at a press conference in 1940.

Even during the 50′s and 60′s flats and prefolds still seemed to be the most popular diapers around so my guess is that this pinless diaper didn’t take off.  Other inventions that used snaps for closure came about in the 1960′s.  From what I can tell it seems that parents weren’t buying into the “fad” diapers just yet and preferred the traditional diapers.  Or, they just made their own.

What do you think- was this diaper the first step towards what we know today?  Or do you think we need to go beyond the pinless diaper towards the waterproof cover (boater) invented in 1949 or does it only count when all of these combine into the earlier all-in-ones like the Mother-Ease?

Sources:  Diapers and Toileting, St. Petersburg Times - Dec 15, 1940, Press Photo 1940 from Cleveland Bureau from my personal collection, Patent Joseph LaKritz.

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Kim Rosas began Dirty Diaper Laundry in 2009 out of a desire to help more parents understand modern cloth diapers. She lives in Florida with her husband of 5 years and her two boys. Even though none of her boys wear diapers anymore she is still just as committed to promoting them. In her spare time Kim enjoys video editing, photography, and coffee.

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