A match is a tool for starting a fire. Typically, modern matches are made of small wooden sticks or stiff paper. One end is coated with a material that can be ignited by frictional heat generated by striking the match against a suitable surface. Wooden matches are packaged in matchboxes, and paper matches are partially cut into rows and stapled into matchbooks. The coated end of a match, known as the match "head", contains either phosphorus or phosphorus sesquisulfide as the active ingredient and gelatin as a binder. There are two main types of matches: safety matches, which can be struck only against a specially prepared surface, and strike-anywhere matches, for which any suitably frictional surface can be used. Some match-like compositions, known as electric matches, are ignited electrically and do not make use of heat from friction.
Historically, the term match referred to lengths of cord (later cambric) impregnated with chemicals, and allowed to burn continuously. These were used to light fires and fire guns (see matchlock) and cannons (see linstock). Such matches were characterised by their burning speed i.e. quick match and slow match. Depending on its formulation, a slow match burns at a rate of around 30 cm (1 ft) per hour and a quick match at 4 to 60 centimetres (1.6 to 24 in) per minute. The modern equivalent of this sort of match is the simple fuse, still used in pyrotechnics to obtain a controlled time delay before ignition. The original meaning of the word still persists in some pyrotechnics terms, such as black match (a black-powder-impregnated fuse) and Bengal match (a firework akin to sparklers producing a relatively long-burning, coloured flame). But, when friction matches became commonplace, they became the main object meant by the term.
A note in the text Cho Keng Lu, written in 1366, describes a sulfur match, small sticks of pinewood impregnated with sulfur, used in China by "impoverished court ladies" in AD 577 during the conquest of Northern Qi. During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (AD 907–960), a book called the Records of the Unworldly and the Strange written by Chinese author Tao Gu in about 950 stated:
If there occurs an emergency at night it may take some time to make a light to light a lamp. But an ingenious man devised the system of impregnating little sticks of pinewood with sulfur and storing them ready for use. At the slightest touch of fire they burst into flame. One gets a little flame like an ear of corn. This marvellous thing was formerly called a "light-bringing slave", but afterwards when it became an article of commerce its name was changed to 'fire inch-stick'.
Another text, Wu Lin Chiu Shih, dated from 1270 AD, lists sulphur matches as something that was sold in the markets of Hangzhou, around the time of Marco Polo's visit. The matches were known as fa chu or tshui erh. Prior to the use of matches, fires were obtained using a burning glass (a lens) to focus the sun on tinder, a method that could only work on sunny days, or by igniting tinder with sparks produced by striking flint and steel. Early work had been done by alchemist Hennig Brandt, who discovered the flammable nature of phosphorus in 1669. Others, including Robert Boyle and his assistant, Godfrey Haukweicz, continued these experiments in the 1680s with phosphorus and sulfur, but their efforts did not produce practical and inexpensive methods for generating fires. But the first modern, self-igniting match was invented in 1805 by Jean Chancel, assistant to Professor Louis Jacques Thénard of Paris. The head of the match consisted of a mixture of potassium chlorate, sulfur, sugar, and rubber. The match was ignited by dipping its tip in a small asbestos bottle filled with sulfuric acid. This kind of match was expensive and its usage was dangerous, so Chancel's matches did not become common. In London, matches meant for lighting cigars were introduced in 1849 by Heurtner who had a shop called the Lighthouse in the Strand. One version that he sold was called "Euperion" (sometimes "Empyrion") which was popular for kitchen use and nicknamed as "Hugh Perry" while another meant for outdoor use was called a "Vesuvian" (a similar version of which was patented by Samuel Jones in 1828 as a "Promethean"). The Vesuvians or "flamers" were designed to work out of doors. The head was large and contained niter, charcoal and wood dust, and had a phosphorus tip. The handle was large and made of hardwood so as to burn vigorously and last for a while. Some even had glass stems. Vesuvians and Prometheans had a bulb of sulfuric acid at the tip which had to be broken with pliers to start the reaction. Samuel Jones introduced fuzees for lighting cigars and pipes in 1832. A similar invention was patented in 1839 by John Hucks Stevens in America. In 1832, William Newton patented the "wax vesta", a wax stem that embedded cotton threads and had a tip of phosphorus. Variants known as "candle matches" were made by Savaresse and Merckel in 1836. John Hucks Stevens also patented a safety version of the friction match in 1839.
In 1816, François Derosne produced a crude match tipped with phosphorus which he called a briquet phosphorique, which used a sulfur-tipped match to scrape inside a tube coated internally with phosphorus. It was good in theory but poor in practice.
The first "friction match" was invented in 1826 by English chemist John Walker, a chemist and druggist from Stockton-on-Tees. He experimented with "percussion powders" made up mainly of potassium chlorate. His early experiments led to a wood splint dipped in a paste of sulfur, gum, potassium chlorate, sugar and antimony trisulfide. The match was drawn between a fold of sandpaper to ignite it. Between 1827 and 1829, Walker made about 168 sales of his matches. It was however dangerous and flaming balls sometimes fell to the floor burning carpets and dresses, leading to their being banned in France and Germany. Walker either did not consider his invention important enough to patent or neglected it. In order for the splints to catch fire, they were often treated with sulfur and the odor was improved by the addition of camphor.
In 1829, Scots inventor Sir Isaac Holden invented an improved version of Walker's match and demonstrated it to his class at Castle Academy in Reading, Berkshire. Holden did not patent his invention and claimed that one of his pupils wrote to his father Samuel Jones, a chemist in London who commercialised his process. A version of Holden's match was patented by Samuel Jones, and these were sold as lucifer matches. These early matches had a number of problems- an initial violent reaction, an unsteady flame and unpleasant odor and fumes. Lucifers could ignite explosively, sometimes throwing sparks a considerable distance. Lucifers were manufactured in the United States by Ezekial Byam. The term "lucifer" persisted as slang in the 20th century (for example in the First World War song Pack Up Your Troubles) and in the Netherlands and Belgium today matches are still called lucifers.
Lucifers were however quickly replaced after the discovery in 1830 by Frenchman Charles Sauria who substituted the antimony sulfide with white phosphorus. These new phosphorus matches had to be kept in airtight metal boxes but became popular. In England, these phosphorus matches were called "Congreves" after Sir William Congreve (1772–1828) while they went by the name of loco foco in the United States. The earliest American patent for the phosphorus friction match was granted in 1836 to Alonzo Dwight Phillips of Springfield, Massachusetts. From 1830 to 1890, the composition of these matches remained largely unchanged, although some improvements were made. In 1843 William Ashgard replaced the sulfur with beeswax, reducing the pungency of the fumes. This was replaced by paraffin in 1862 by Charles W. Smith, resulting in what were called "parlor matches". From 1870 the end of the splint was fireproofed by impregnation with fire-retardant chemicals such as alum, sodium silicate, and other salts resulting in what were commonly called as a "drunkard's match" and prevented the accidental burning of the user's fingers. Other advances were made for the mass manufacture of matches. Early matches were made from blocks of woods with cuts separating the splints but leaving their bases attached. Later versions were made in the form of thin combs. The splints would be broken away from the comb when required.
A noiseless match was invented in 1836 by the Hungarian János Irinyi, who was a student of chemistry. An unsuccessful experiment by his professor, Meissner, gave Irinyi the idea to replace potassium chlorate with lead dioxide in the head of the phosphorus match. He liquefied phosphorus in warm water and shook it in a glass vial, until it became granulated. He mixed the phosphorus with lead and gum arabic, poured the paste-like mass into a jar, and dipped the pine sticks into the mixture and let them dry. When he tried them that evening, all of them lit evenly. Irinyi thus invented the noiseless match. He sold the invention to István Rómer, a match manufacturer. Rómer, a Hungarian pharmacist living in Vienna, bought the invention and production rights from Irinyi for 60 forints. Rómer became rich and Irinyi went on to publish articles and a textbook on chemistry, and founded several match factories.
The replacement of white phosphorus
Unfortunately, those involved in the manufacture of the new phosphorus matches were afflicted with phossy jaw and other bone disorders, and there was enough white phosphorus in one pack to kill a person. Deaths and suicides from eating the heads of matches became frequent. The earliest report of phosphorus necrosis was made in 1845 by Lorinser in Vienna, and a New York surgeon published a pamphlet with notes on nine cases. Attempts were made to reduce the ill-effects on workers through the introduction of inspections and regulations. Anton Schrötter von Kristelli discovered in 1850 that heating white phosphorus at 250°C in an inert atmosphere produced a red allotropic form, which did not fume in contact with air. It was suggested that this would make a suitable substitute in match manufacture although it was slightly more expensive. Two French chemists, Henri Savene and Emile David Cahen, developed a safe match using phosphorus sesquisulfide that was patented in 1898. They proved that the substance was not poisonous, that it could be used in a "strike-anywhere" match, and that the match heads were not explosive. They patented a safety match composition in 1898 based on phosphorus sesquisulfide and potassium chlorate. Albright and Wilson developed a safe means of making commercial quantities of phosphorus sesquisulfide in the United Kingdom in 1899 and started selling it to match manufacturers. White phosphorus however continued to be used, and its serious effects led many countries to ban its use. Finland prohibited the use of white phosphorus in 1872, followed by Denmark in 1874, France in 1897, Switzerland in 1898, and the Netherlands in 1901. An agreement, the Berne Convention, was reached at Bern, Switzerland, in September 1906, which banned the use of white phosphorus in matches. This required each country to pass laws prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches. Great Britain passed a law in 1908 prohibiting its use in matches after 31 December 1910. The United States did not pass a law, but instead placed a "punitive tax" on white phosphorus-based matches, one so high as to render their manufacture financially impractical, in 1913. India and Japan banned them in 1919; China followed, banning them in 1925.
In the United States, the Diamond Match Company obtained the patent for sesquisulfide manufacture in 1900 for a sum of $100,000. In 1901 Albright and Wilson started making phosphorus sesquisulfide at their Niagara Falls, New York plant for the US market, but American manufacturers continued to use white phosphorus matches. The Niagara Falls plant made them until 1910, when the United States Congress forbade the shipment of white phosphorus matches in interstate commerce. At the same time the largest producer of matches in the US granted free use, in the US, of its phosphorus sesquisulfide safety match patents. On January 26, 1911, President William Howard Taft then wrote publicly to the Diamond Match Company asking them to release the patent for the good of mankind, which they did on January 28, 1911 after conferring with their licensees. The patent was released retroactively, and licensees had the option to get their license fees refunded (although most chose not to pursue them). In 1913 Albright and Wilson also started making red phosphorus at Niagara Falls.
The strike-anywhere match
Early friction matches made with white phosphorus as well as those made from phosphorus sesquisulfide could be struck on any suitable surface. They were particularly popular in the United States even when safety matches had become common in Europe. However, strike anywhere matches are still used today all around the world, including many developing countries. In the United States, as well as other countries, strike anywhere matches are still widely used today for such uses as camping, outdoor activities, emergency/survival situations, and stocking homemade survival kits.
The safety match
The dangers of white phosphorus in the manufacture of matches led to the development of the "hygienic" or safety match. The major innovation in its development was the use of red phosphorus, not on the head of the match but instead on a specially designed striking surface. The idea was developed in 1844 by the Swede Gustaf Erik Pasch (1788–1862) and was improved by Johan Edvard Lundström (1815–1888). Pasch patented the use of red phosphorus in the striking surface. He found that this could ignite heads that did not need to contain white phosphorus. Johan Edvard and his younger brother Carl Frans Lundström (1823–1917) started a large-scale match industry in Jönköping, Sweden around 1847, but the improved safety match was not introduced until around 1850–55. The Lundström brothers had obtained a sample of red phosphorus matches from Arthur Albright at The Great Exhibition, held at The Crystal Palace in 1851, but had misplaced it and therefore they did not try the matches until just before the Paris Exhibition of 1855 when they found that the matches were still usable. In 1858 their company produced around 12 million match boxes.
The safety of true "safety matches" is derived from the separation of the reactive ingredients between a match head on the end of a paraffin-impregnated splint and the special striking surface (in addition to the safety aspect of replacing the white phosphorus with red phosphorus). The idea for separating the chemicals had been introduced in 1859 in the form of two-headed matches known in France as Alumettes Androgynes. These were sticks with one end made of potassium chlorate and the other of red phosphorus. They had to be broken and the heads rubbed together. There was however a risk of the heads rubbing each other accidentally in their box. Such dangers were removed when the striking surface was moved to the outside of the box. The striking surface on modern matchboxes is typically composed of 25% powdered glass or other abrasive material, 50% red phosphorus, 5% neutralizer, 4% carbon black, and 16% binder; and the match head is typically composed of 45–55% potassium chlorate, with a little sulfur and starch, a neutralizer (ZnO or CaCO
3), 20–40% of siliceous filler, diatomite, and glue. Some heads contain antimony(III) sulfide to make them burn more vigorously. Safety matches ignite due to the extreme reactivity of phosphorus with the potassium chlorate in the match head. When the match is struck the phosphorus and chlorate mix in a small amount forming something akin to the explosive Armstrong's mixture which ignites due to the friction.
The Swedes long held a virtual worldwide monopoly on safety matches, with the industry mainly situated in Jönköping, by 1903 called Jönköpings & Vulcans Tändsticksfabriks AB. In France, they sold the rights to their safety match patent to Coigent Père & Fils of Lyon, but Coigent contested the payment in the French courts, on the basis that the invention was known in Vienna before the Lundström brothers patented it. The British match manufacturer Bryant and May visited Jönköping in 1858 to try to obtain a supply of safety matches, but it was unsuccessful. In 1862 it established its own factory and bought the rights for the British safety match patent from the Lundström brothers.
Safety matches are classified as dangerous goods, "U.N. 1944, Matches, safety". They are not universally forbidden on aircraft; however, they must be declared as dangerous goods and individual airlines and/or countries may impose tighter restrictions.
Storm matches, also known as lifeboat matches or flare matches, are often included in survival kits. They have a strikable tip similar to a normal match, but much of the stick is coated or impregnated with a combustible compound and waterproofed with wax, and will burn even in a strong wind. This match was used in the first mass-produced Molotov cocktails.
Matchbooks and matchboxes
The development of a specialized "matchbook" with both matches and a striking surface occurred in the 1890s with the American Joshua Pusey, who sold his patent to the Diamond Match Company. The well-known Diamond Match brand name is still in use as of the early 21st century under Rye, N.Y.-based Jarden, which has owned the brand since 2003.
- Ivar Kreuger
- Hendrick Lucifer
- London matchgirls strike of 1888
- John Leonard Orr
- Permanent Match
- Swedish Match
- The Little Match Girl
- The Safety Matches
- Vesta case
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|Look up match in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Matches.|
- "History of Chemical Matches". Chemistry.about.com.
- "The History of Matches". Inventors.about.com.
- "Making 125,000 Matches An Hour", August 1946, Popular Science article on the modern mass production of wooden stem matches
- "History of matchbooks". Matchcovers.com/first100.htm.
- "The Rathkamp Matchcover Society". matchcover.org.library.thinkquest.org/23062/match.htm
- "Lighting a Match", Royal Institution video on the ignition process