story of the match
In the far off dawn of
civilization primitive man found out how to make fire by rubbing two
pieces of wood together. This
was a long and laborious process and explains why fires, once lit,
were carefully tended so that they should not go out.
When man acquired
the art of smelting iron, some 3,000 years ago, the flint and
steel method of making fire was used instead of the sticks. A hard
flinty stone was used to strike sparks from a piece of steel, and
the sparks, falling on a piece of tinder, which was usually a piece
of charred rag, caused it to smoulder. The actual fire was
then obtained by the aid of a splinter of wood or a piece of straw,
the end of which had been dipped in melted sulphur.
Next came the
tinder-box. It was made of wood, horn or metal, the most usual being
in the shape of a round tin. The tinder-box served a dual purpose:
it kept the steel, flint, tinder and matches together and, more
important, kept the tinder dry.
and tinder-pouches were made for carrying in the pocket. These were
made from a variety of materials, the tip of a bull's horn being
often used in England, while in India the hollowed-out tooth of a
crocodile was favoured.
It was during the
17th century that the tinder-pistol was introduced. When the trigger
was pulled the resultant spark ignited a few grains of gunpowder
which, in turn, ignited the tinder. The earliest tinder-pistols were
made of iron, but later some exquisite examples of workmanship were
made in iron and brass. Smaller pocket models were also made.
It is an extremely
odd fact, but nevertheless a true one, that it was very soon after
this that the pocket lighter came into existence. The Japanese, when
they eventually came into possession of a European tinder-pistol,
copies the action on a very tiny scale and enclosed it in a small
container not much larger than a walnut shell.
It was not until 1810
that anything resembling the match, as we know it today was
introduced. This was the "instantaneous Light Box" which
came from France. It consisted of a box containing a tiny bottle of
sulphuric acid and some matches, the heads of which had been dipped
in a compound of chlorate of potash and sulphide of antimony. The
head of the match was dipped into the acid and when it was withdrawn
it burst into flame. This form of instantaneous light became very
popular and remained in use for about 25 years.
In 1828 the
instantaneous light was improved on by Samuel Jones, a chemist of
London. He invented what he called the Promethean Match. This
consisted of a tiny glass vessel, which had a minute portion of
sulphuric acid inside, which was enclosed in a small quantity of
chlorate of potash, the whole being sealed up in the end of a paper
spill. When the head was crushed between the jaws of a small pair of
pliers, which was sold with every box, the liberated acid
immediately caused the potash to ignite.
John Walker, a
chemist from Stockton-on-Tees, invented his "Friction
Lights" in 1826, but although his friends urged him to do so,
he refused to patent them on grounds that the idea was not
sufficiently important. They were sold in round tin containers for
1/2d. per hundred. The earliest lights had cardboard stems, but he
quickly improved them by using slivers instead. They were ignited by
placing the head of the light between a folded piece of sandpaper,
then sharply withdrawing it.
As Walker had not
patented his friction lights it meant that anyone could make them,
and that is what soon happened..
In 1830 Samuel Jones,
the inventor of the Promethean Match, put his "Lucifers"
onthe market. These were an exact copy of Walker's friction lights,
but he sold them in cardboard boxes very similar in shape and size
to the matchboxes of today.
Almost immediately a
near neighbour of Walker's, another chemist, G.F.Watts, brought out
exactly the same match but called it Watt's Chlorate Match. These
were sold for 6d. a hundred.
Two years later, in
1832 Richard Bell established the first British match factory in
London. Bell's matches are still produced today, but the original
firm has since been incorporated in Bryant & May's firm.
producing the new phosphorus match that had been invented a young
Frenchman named Charles Sauria. The head of the match was made of a
mixture of sulphur, chlorate of potash, sulphide of antimony and
phosphorus and had the great advantage that it would strike on
The new match, the
Congreve as it was called, quickly ousted all other matches from the
market and was used almost exclusively for many years.
manufacturers entered the business, and competition grew, the
cardboard matchboxes began to flaunt highly coloured and greatly
varied labels, one unforeseen result was that a new hobby was born,
the matchbox collectors - phillumenists as they are called - now
enjoy a hobby older than stamp collecting.
In 1832 two further
types of matches were invented, the Fuzee and the Wax Vesta.
The fuzee was
intended solely to light pipes and cigars out of doors. It was
composed of a thick piece of cardboard, some 5 inches long by
1.1/2 inches wide, steeped in nitre and then incompletely cut, as in
the manner of book matches today, into twelve strips. The head of
each strip was dipped in a phosphoric compound. When required for
use, the match was torn off and ignited when it was slowly smoulder
and could not be blown out by the wind.
The wax vesta was
made like a small wax taper and was exactly like the wax vestas of
today, although very few of them are now produced, having been
almost entirely superseded by the wood vestas.
It was in 1855 that
Eduard Lundstrom produced the "safety" match, which he did
by incorporating phosphorus in the rubbing surface on the side of
It is obvious
however, that with the millions of matches that are now used every
week, the old fashioned method of making them by hand has long since
S.J. Moreland &
Sons Ltd of Gloucester produce millions of matches every week. In
1850 these Works were founded by Samuel John Moreland. He did not
rely solely on matches, however, as he did a large amount of joinery
work, and also was well-known for his blind-laths.
As time went on,
matches became more and more popular and so he gradually turned his
whole attention to their manufacture. Since that time the
"England's Glory" Match Works provided employment for
a great number of men and women in the City of Gloucester.
The fact that matches
have to be placed, immediately they are made, into a bonded
warehouse, may sound surprising, for there certainly seems no
connection between such a weighty process of the law and that most
humble of all common everyday articles - a match. The reason is that
the Match Tax was instituted in 1916, and the collection
of tax has been the responsibility of H.M. Customs and Excise