Sunday, July 18, 2010

Where did Matches come from?

(Image courtesy of

Have you ever wondered where matches came from or who invented them?  This is just the type of thing that the LRH contemplates at times....yes it's sad isn't it?

I came across an article from with the information.  You most likely will be as surprised as I was with all the drama and intrigue.  See my paraphrase below.

It seems that in 1669, an Alchemist was experimenting with creating gold from base metals.  In the process he invented Phosphorous, but cast it aside as it was not his intended goal.

Then, Mr. Robert Boyle produced a coated paper that when a stick coated in sulphur was pulled through it, it would ignite.

In 1826, a Mr. John Walker stumbled upon a mixture that left a lump on a stick he was using to stir his concoction.  In an attempt to wipe the lump off when scraping it across the floor, it ignited.  Mr. Walker was very excited and began to demonstrate this to various groups.  Unfortunately, he did not patent it, and someone else did.

Samuel Jones did see one of Mr. Walker's demonstrations and capitalized on it by patenting it.  Appropriately so, he called his matches "Lucifers".  They were very smelly and even included a warning label that the odor could be harmful to one's health.

In 1830, Charles Sauria added phosphorous to do away with the stench.  Unwittingly, his modification lead to a near epidemic disease that poisoned human bones.  Workers in the factories and children who sucked on matches (why anyone would let thier children do this  is beyond me) were most susceptible.  In 1910 there was a campaign to ban them.

In comes the Diamond Match company to the rescue as they substituted the harmless chemical sesquisulfide of phosphorous in place of the deadly white phosphorous.  Congress subsequently raised taxes so high on phosphorous matches that they became too expensive to buy.  President Taft requested that the Diamond Match company forgo their patent to make this process available to the masses to decrease the reliance on the Phosphorous matches.  The company agreed to do so in 1911.

The matchbook itself was invented in 1892 by John Pusey.  However, he placed the striking surface inside of the book which caused all the matches to light at once.  The Diamond Match company bought the patent, and then placed the striking surface on the outside for safety.
Wow, it is like a "Match" soap opera of some type isn't it?

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