Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A match is a combustible tool for lighting a fire in controlled circumstances. They are commonly sold by tobacconists and many other kinds of shops. Matches are usually sold in quantity, packaged in match boxes or matchbooks. A match is typically a wooden stick (typical in the case of match boxes) or stiff paper stick (in the case of matchbooks) coated at one end with a material which will ignite from the heat of friction if struck against a suitable surface.[1] The lighting end of a match is known as the match "head" and, depending on type, either contains 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.

Sulfur matches were apparently mentioned by Martial in ancient Rome (sulphurata).

A predecessor of the match, small sticks of pinewood impregnated with sulfur were invented in China in AD 577. Besieged by military forces of Northern Zhou and Chen, Northern Qi court ladies were out of tinder and desperate for a means to start fires for cooking and heating. 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 sulphur 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'.

Matches also appeared in Europe by about 1530. But the first modern, self-igniting match was invented in 1805 by K. 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 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 1826. Early work had been done by Robert Boyle and his assistant, Godfrey Haukweicz in the 1680s with phosphorus and sulfur, but their efforts had not produced useful results. Walker discovered a mixture of antimony(III) sulfide or stibnite, 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 lucifer matches.

The safety match was invented in 1844 by the Swede Gustaf Erik Pasch (1788-1862) and was improved by Johan Edvard Lundström (1815-1888). Johan Edvard and his younger brother Carl Frans Lundström (1823-1917) started a large scale match industry in Jönköping around 1847, but the improved safety match was not introduced until around 1850-55. In 1858 their company produced around 12 million match boxes.

The Swedes long held a virtual worldwide monopoly on safety matches, with the industry mainly situated in Jönköping, 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.

The development of a specialized "matchbook" with both matches and a striking surface did not occur until the 1890s with the American Joshua Pusey, who later sold his patent to the Diamond Match Company. The Diamond Match Company was later bought by Bryant and May.

The hobby of collecting match-related items, such as matchcovers and matchbox labels, is known as phillumeny.

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