If you need a fire, do you rub two sticks together or use flint stones? Perhaps none of the options. Most people would use a lighter or a match. But when was the match invented?
Matches are a portable and easy to use fire source. Many chemical reactions generate heat and fire, but matches are a fairly recent invention.
The chemicals used in modern matches are generally safe, but this was not always the case.
When was the match invented? Chronology: 1669
When was the matchstick invented, is this source of fire readily available and used even today?
Hennig Brandt or Brandt, also known as Dr. Teutonicus, was a chemist from Hamburg who discovered phosphorous in his attempts to turn metals into gold.
Leave the urine in the container until it rots. He boiled the resulting liquid into a paste, and heated it to such a high temperature that the vapors could be drawn into the water and condensed into…gold.
Brand didn’t get gold, but he did get a white waxy substance that glows in the dark. This was phosphorous, one of the first elements to be isolated other than those found freely in nature.
Evaporation of the urine produced sodium ammonium dihydrogen phosphate (a fine salt), which upon heating produced sodium phosphite. It is heated with carbon (coal), and it decomposes into white phosphorous and sodium pyrophosphate.
Johann Kunkel succeeded in making phosphorous from urine in 1678.
In 1690, Sir Robert Boyle coated a piece of paper with phosphorous and a chip of wood with sulfur. When the wood was rubbed with paper, it caught fire. It was difficult to obtain phosphorus at that time, so the invention was just a curiosity.
Boyle’s method for sequestering phosphorous was more effective than Brand’s method.
1826-1827: John Walker and Samuel Jones
Walker accidentally made a match made of antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum and starch, as a result of a dry blot from the end of a stick used to stir a chemical mixture.
He did not patent his invention, although he showed it to people. Samuel Jones watched the demonstration and began manufacturing “Lucifer,” which were matches that were marketed in the southern and western states of the United States.
It seems that Lucifer can ignite explosively, sometimes throwing sparks a great distance. They were known for their strong “fireworks” smell.
When was the match invented? Chronology: 1830, Charles Soria
Sauria changed the match formula using white phosphorous, eliminating the strong smell. However, phosphorous was fatal. Many people have developed a disorder known as jaw necrosis.
Babies who suck matches have skeletal abnormalities. Workers in phosphorous plants suffered from bone diseases. A box of matches contains enough phosphorous to kill a person.
1892, Joshua Posey
Pusey invented the matchbox, however, so he placed the friction surface inside so that all 50 matches could be lit at once.
Diamond Match later bought Pusey’s patent and moved the friction surface out of the package.
When was the match invented? Chronology: 1910-1911, Diamond Match Company
With global pressure to ban the use of white phosphorous matches, Diamond Match has patented a non-toxic match that uses phosphorous sesquisulfide. The President of the United States at the time, William Howard Taft, demanded that Diamond Match relinquish the patent.
Diamond relinquished the patent on January 28, 1911. Congress passed a law imposing a heavy tax on white phosphorous sticks.
Butane lighters have largely replaced matches in many parts of the world, yet matches are still made and used.
Diamond Match, for example, does more than 12 billion matches a year. According to ThoughtCo, approximately 500 billion matches are used annually in the United States.
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