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Fascinating facts about the invention of
Book Matches by Joshua Pusey in 1889.
BOOK MATCHES
Humans had used controlled fire to modify their environment for thousands of centuries before means were discovered to activate fires chemically. At some time long before the beginning of recorded history, people in widely separated parts of the world learned how to spark fires at first by the friction of rubbing two sticks together, and later (and more easily) with, flint and steel. However, it was not until 1680 that an Englishman named Robert Boyle discovered that phosphorus and sulfur would burst into flame instantly if rubbed together. He was convinced that the flames were caused not by friction but by something inherent in the nature of the phosphorus and sulfur themselves. He was right. He had uncovered the principal that would ultimately lead to the modern match. In the early nineteenth century, many different chemical fire-starting devices were developed in Europe. Some used Boyle’s phosphorus/sulfur combination, others involved gaseous hydrogen, but all were quite cumbersome and dangerous.

In 1827, an English pharmacist named John Walker produced his "sulphuretted peroxide strikables," gigantic, yard-long sticks that can be considered the real precursor of today’s match. Small phosphorus matches were first marketed in Germany in 1832, but they were extremely hazardous. In 1836 in the United States, Alonzo D. Phillips of Springfield, Massachusetts, obtained a patent for "manufacturing of friction matches" and called them locofocos. The danger problem was not resolved until the invention of amorphous (red) phosphorus in 1845. Carl Lundstrom of Sweden introduced the first red phosphorus "safety" matches in 1855.

Joshua Pusey invented book matches in 1889.  He was a well-known lawyer in Pennsylvania before the turn of the century. He smoked cigars.

One day he was invited to a dinner party by the Mayor of Philadelphia.  He dressed in his best clothes, and all was fine-except for one thing. The big box of wooden kitchen matches he was carrying to light his cigars, stuck out of his vest so much that he felt embarrassed. Why did matches have to be so bulky? He wondered! Why couldn't they be made out of paper instead of wood? 

Paper matches would be lighter and much smaller.  Mr. Pusey worked at his idea, and in 1889 he patented paper matches. He tried to interest people in his invention, but for eight years, no one seemed to care. Then in 1897, Pusey got his break. The Mendelsohn Opera Company wanted a special way to advertise their New York opening. They used books of paper matches with their name printed on them.

Suddenly everyone was talking about book matches, and paper matches began selling as fast as they were made.  In later years Joshua Pusey sold his rights to the Diamond Match Company for $4000.00. He was known to joke to his friends that he was by then known all over as "the match man," not as a distinguished lawyer who had pled cases before the United States Supreme Court.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Chemistry History   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
100 Inventions That Shaped World History
by Bill Yenne, Morton, Dr. Grosser (Editor) / Paperback - 112 pages (1983)
/ Bluewood Books 
This book contains inventions from all around the world from microchips to fire. This is a really good book if you are going to do research on inventions.
Accidents May Happen: 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Hardcover - 86 pages (1996) / Delacorte
Fifty inventions discovered by mistake receive entertaining cartoon embellishment but are actually serious subjects which will delight and entertain kids. 
The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages
(1999) / Puffin
Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident, from animal crackers to the zipper.

Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs. 

ON THE WEB:
The First 100 Years of Match Making
Joshua Pusey, a Philadelphia lawyer and patent attorney, is credited with the first matchbook in 1889.
With matches, made originally for his personal use, this Philadelphia lawyer sold the patent rights to Diamond Match Co. for $4,000 in 1896.

(URL: www.matchcovers.com/first100.htm)
Matches A Story of Light and Dark
Matches are basically chemically treated sticks that burst into flames when struck.
(URL: www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/classic/A798834)
Match Museum
In the museum, living match history is told. Encounter the people and machines that built up the match industy and developed it into a global operation.
(URL: www.jonkoping.se/kultur/matchmuseum/engindx.htm)
Match History
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match..Useless information  Where did I get this true story?
(URL: home.nycap.rr.com/useless/matches/index.html)
Matchbook Collecting
By the early 1930s, the first organized matchcover clubs began appearing. None survived, however
(URL: www.matchcover.org/sierra/mhistory.html)
Robert Boyle Biography
Born: 25 Jan 1627 in Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland Died: 30 Dec 1691 in London, England. Presented by School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland.
(URL: www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Boyle.html)
Joshua Pusey Biography
Joshua Pusey (March 27, 1842 - May 8, 1906), was an American inventor and a prominent attorney.
(URL: www.explore-biography.com/inventors/J/Joshua_Pusey.html)

HOW IT WORKS:
A match machine at Diamond can make more than one million matches per hour. Diamond match machines are used to produce other wood products as well. There are more than twenty chemicals used to make a match. Input, process and output from Diamond Brands Web site.

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • Today, 500 billion matches are used each year, about 200 billion from matchbooks
  • Diamond Match Company makes more than 12 billion matches a year of the more than 500 billion that are used annually in the United States..
  • "Phillumeny" is the collecting of matchboxes, matchbox labels, and matchcovers.
  • According to one edition of the game Trivial Pursuit, the safety phrase 'Close cover before striking' is the most printed phrase in the English language. The phrase is on matchbooks and matchboxes.

 

Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised March, 2005.
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