Who invented matches?

Posted on Mar 9, 2022      309

An interesting story about the appearance of matches

Matches are a relatively recent invention (early 19th century). Before that time fire was made in another way. Instead of a box of matches, people used to carry in their pockets a small container with 3 subjects: a piece of steel, a small pebble and a piece of similar to sponge. 

Fire was made in the following way. One had to hold the flint in one hand and in the other the flint and the blunt. Then you must strike the flint with the flint more than once. 

So it was not so easy to make fire. It is not without reason that people wanted to replace the flint  with something more convenient.

And it was only in 1844 that the first matches appeared. By the way, there were many attempts to invent a more practical means of making fire between matches and a flint. There were even sticks with a drop of concentrated sulfuric acid on the end which were sometimes explosive. It was not without reason that matches were expensive and dangerous, for sulfuric acid could cause burns when ignited.

More practical was the version of a match igniting with light friction. Sulphur was not suitable for such a purpose, and then attention was turned to phosphorus. Phosphorus was more combustible than sulphur, but it burned out instantly before the match could be lit. Then substances were added to phosphorus that gave off oxygen needed for ignition when heated. And the goal was achieved.

In 1833, the Austrian Irini was the first to suggest the best recipe for the ignition mass for the first phosphorus matches that could be easily ignited. It was enough to strike them against a wall. Irini offered this recipe to Remer, an entrepreneur who decided to open a match factory. Because striking matches against the wall or carrying them in his pocket was inconvenient, Remer decided to pack them in boxes. On one side of the box was glued rough paper (the paper is pre-dipped in glue and then poured on its pounded glass or sand). By striking the paper or other rough surface, the match was ignited. Having established the production of matches, the entrepreneur earned a lot of money.

Soon other manufacturers were also engaged in this business, because of which phosphorus matches became a bestseller and a cheap commodity.

The major disadvantage of phosphorus matches was the toxicity of phosphorus. Within a couple of months the workers were poisoned by phosphorus vapor, the production of matches was very unhealthy. In 1847 Schroeter discovered amorphous red phosphorus, which was not poisonous. So it replaced the harmful white phosphorus. The new matches were not smoking and burned with an even yellowish flame. For the first time, the Swedes Lundstrem produced the matches in 1851. For a long time safe phosphorus-free matches were called “Swedish”. Issue and sale of poisonous phosphorus matches were eventually absolutely stopped.