You are here:

FREE Newsletter

Inventors The History of Matches
By Mary Bellis

In 1669, phosphorous was discovered - phosphorous was soon used in match heads.

In 1680, an Irish physicist named Robert Boyle (Boyle's Law) coated a small piece of paper with phosphorous and coated a small piece of wood with sulfur. He then rubbed the wood across the paper and created a fire. However, there was no useable match created by Robert Boyle.

In 1827, John Walker, English chemist and apothecary, discovered that if he coated the end of a stick with certain chemicals and let them dry, he could start a fire by striking the stick anywhere. These were the first friction matches. The chemicals he used were antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch. Walker did not patent his "Congreves" as he called the matches (alluding to the Congreve's rocket invented in 1808). Walker was a former chemist at 59 High Street, in Stockton-on-Tees, England. His first sale of the matches was on April 7, 1827, to a Mr. Hixon, a solicitor in the town. Walker made little money from his invention. He died in 1859 at the age of 78 and is buried in the Norton Parish Churchyard in Stockton. (br1781- d1859)

One Samuel Jones saw Walker's "Congreves" and decided to market them, calling his matches "Lucifers" "Lucifers" became popular especially among smokers, but they had a bad burning odor.

In 1830, the French chemist, Charles Sauria, created a match made with white phosphorous. Sauria's matches had no odor, but they made people sick with a ailment dubbed "phossy jaw". White phosphorous is poisonous.

In 1855, safety matches were patented by Johan Edvard Lundstrom of Sweden. Lundstrom put red phosphorus on the sandpaper outside the box and the other ingredients on the match head, solving the problem of "phossy jaw" and creating a match that could only be safely lit off the prepared, special striking, surface.

In 1889, Joshua Pusey invented the matchbook, he called his matchbook matches "Flexibles". Pusey's patent was unsuccessfully challenged by the Diamond Match Company who had invented a similar matchbook (their striker was on the outside, Pusey's was on the inside). His patent was later purchased by the Diamond Match Company in 1896 for $4,000 and a job offer.

In 1910, the Diamond Match Company patented the first nonpoisonous match in the U.S., which used a safe chemical called sesquisulfide of phophorous.

United States President William H. Taft publicly asked Diamond Match to release their patent for the good of mankind. They did on January 28, 1911, Congress placed a high tax on matches made with white phosphorous. History Page
The first 100 years of match making.

Robert Boyle: Mighty Chemist
Boyle was the first prominent scientist to perform controlled experiments and to publish his work with details concerning procedure, apparatus and observations. Try also Robert Boyle

Evolution of the Match
The lucifer match has attained its present high state of perfection by a long series of inventions of various degrees of merit, the most important of which resulted from the progress of chemical science.

Match Definition
A match consists of three basic parts: a head, which initiates combustion via various materials like phosphorous; a tinder substance to pick up and burn the flame, usually a piece of wood or cardboard; and a handle, often the same as the tinder.

Striking It Rich: Match Collecting
Back in the days when advertising was mainly word-of-mouth, cast members from the Mendelson Opera Company conceived a unique, and diminutive, way to let people know about their next performance. The opera company decided in 1895 to purchase about 100 blank matchbooks from the Diamond Match Company.

Phosphorous Atom
Periodic Table of the Elements - Phosphorus

Subscribe to the Newsletter

From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!

Important disclaimer information about this About site.

Newsletters & RSSEmail to a friendAdd to
All Topics | Email Article | |
Our Story | Be a Guide | Advertising Info | News & Events | Work at About | Site Map | Reprints | Help
User Agreement | Ethics Policy | Patent Info. | Privacy Policy | Kids' Privacy Policy

©2006 About, Inc., A part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.
Mental Health

Depression Self-Test Vitamins for Depression? Bipolar Red Flags Coping With Disasters Celebrities With Bipolar

What's Hot

Gyroscopes - Elmer Sperry and Charles Stark Draper Gyroscope...Angel AlcalaThe History of the BikiniRusi Taleyarkhan Jack Johnson