There are so many things that we take for granted now, but did not exist just a few decades ago. Obviously, there are the technological wonders, like the cell phone, internet, and microwave, but have you ever thought about some of the more simple things? For instance, what do you do when you need to light a cigarette or even a joint? Reach into your pocket and pull out the Bic, of course! but what would happen if those handy and useful flame-producing devices went away?
Does anyone remember the safety match? Or how you could walk into any bar, resturant, gas station, or store and ask for a book of matches? Many times, a book of matches was given away freely whenever you bought a pack of cigarettes! Lets look at the lowly match, and see just what we are missing.
In 1826, an English chemist named John Walker was attempting to create a new explosive. Stirring an antimony sulfide and potassium-based formula with a wooden stick, he noticed a tear-shaped glob which had dried on the stick's tip. he scraped it on the stone floor to remove it, and to his surprise, the stick caught fire.
In 1827, Walker began selling "friction lights, but never applied for a patent. they had tips which had been coated with a potassium chloride-antimony sulfide paste, which ignited when scraped between a fold of sandpaper. they came in a tin, each with a piece of sandpaper. The user folded this over the match, held it tightly, and pulled the splinter of wood hard. Walker made little money off of the invention and copy-cats soon abounded. there were problems with the matches however, they ignited with the force of a firework, and they smelled terrible.
In 1830, a French chemist named Charles Sauria discovered how to make matches using white phosphorus instead. They didn't smell as bad, they burned longer, and they were less explosive. however, it turned out that there was a dangerous development due to their toxic nature of the phosphorus. Inhaling the fumes from burnt phosphorus matches had deadly consequences. When the fumes of white phosphorus are inhaled, or when the fingers that have contacted white phosphorus contact the mouth, or when a drinking glass is used that has been in the presence of phosphorus fumes, the toxin can enter the body. A single pack of matches contained enough phosphorus to kill a person.
A French scientist named Georges Lemoine found that red phosphorus was not poisonous, and a patent was filed on this method of matchmaking in 1898. The Diamond Match Company purchased the patent and then, at the urging of President Taft, made the patent public domain, so that all match manufacturers could use the formula without paying royalties.
DIAMOND MATCH COMPANY
The increasing popularity of smoking, coupled with the advent of gas for lighting and heat caused the demand for matches to skyrocket. Mechanized methods of matchmaking were needed. to solve this difficulty, the country's largest manufacturers banded together back in 1881 to form a single company, called the Diamond Match Company. the best features of the machinery that each company had developed individually were now combined.
The machines that turn out those "strike anywhere" matches at the rate of more than 300 per second are about 60 feet long and two stories high. Wooden matches are made out of White Pine or Aspen wood, and it takes about an hour for each splinter of wood to travel through the factory.
The matchbook became the "best read book in America" and the warning "Close Cover Before Striking" became the most printed phrase in the history of the printed word (but when was the last time YOU saw this?). For over 40 years, the lowly matchbook was considered to be the best and most popular advertising medium in the entire nation.
Matchbooks are one of the most popular collectables in the world. In the United States, it is the second most popular hobby of collecting, right after postage stamps. people who collect matchbooks are called "phillumenists", which means "lovers of light". Today, the most-used form of match is the book match, and they are used more than any other kind.
The market for matches has declined by over 80% since the introduction of the disposable lighter in 1972.