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Encyclopedia > Matches
Household safety matches
burning match
burning match

A match is a simple and convenient means of producing fire under controlled circumstances and on demand. It consists of a short wooden or cardboard stick with a small head of flammable chemicals and a striking surface.

A predecessor of the match, small sticks of pinewood impregnated with sulfur, was developed in China in the 6th century AD.

The first modern match was invented in 1805 by K. Chancel, assistant to Professor L. J. ThÚnard of Paris. The head of the match consisted of a mixture of potassium chlorate, sulfur, sugar, and rubber. They were ignited by dipping the tip of the match in a small asbestos bottle filled with sulfuric acid. This kind of match was quite expensive and its usage was dangerous, so Chancel's matches never gained much popularity.

The first friction match was invented by English chemist John Walker in 1827. Early work had been done by Robert Boyle in the 1680s with phosphorus and sulfur, but his efforts had not produced useful results. Walker discovered a mixture of antimony (III) sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch could be ignited by striking against any rough surface. Walker called the matches congreves, but the process was patented by Samuel Jones and the matches were sold as lucifers. The early matches had a number of problems -- the flame was unsteady and the initial reaction was disconcertingly violent; additionally the odor produced by the burning match was unpleasant. Despite these problems, the new matches were responsible for a marked increase in the number of smokers.

In 1831, Frenchman Charles Sauria added white phosphorus to remove the smell. These new matches had to be kept in an airtight box but were popular. Unfortunately, those involved in the manufacture of the new matches were afflicted with "phossy-jaw" and other bone disorders, and there was enough white phosphorus in one pack to kill a person. There was a vociferous campaign to ban these matches once the dangers became known.

A box of matches

The safety match was invented in 1844 by the Swede Gustaf Erik Pasch and improved by Johan Edvard Lundstr÷m a decade later. The safety is due to the separation of the combustible ingredients between the match head and a special striking surface. The striking surface is composed of powdered glass and red phosphorus, and the match head was composed of antimony (III) sulfide and potassium chlorate. The act of striking converts the red phosphorus to white by friction heat; the white phosphorus ignites and the ignition starts the combustion of the match head. The additional safety was the replacement of white phosphorus with red phosphorus. An American company developed a similar match using phosphorus sesquisulfide and patented it in 1910.

The development of a specialised matchbook with both matches and a striking surface did not occur until 1890 with the American Joshua Pusey.

  Results from FactBites:
Match - LoveToKnow 1911 (1363 words)
The first attempt to make matches in the modern sense may probably be ascribed to Godfrey Haukwitz, who, in 1680, acting under the direction of Robert Boyle, who at that time had just discovered how to prepare phosphorus, employed small pieces of that element, ignited by friction, to light splints of wood dipped in sulphur.
The matches so prepared, when brought into contact with the sulphuric acid in the bottle, ignited, and thus, by chemical action, fire was produced.
In France matches are a government monopoly, and are both dear in price and inferior in quality, as compared with other countries where the industry is left to private enterprise.
  More results at FactBites »



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