History of the Match

Robert Boyle (25 January 1627 - 30 December 1691)

  • In 1680 an Englishman named Robert Boyle discovered that phosphorus and sulfur would burst into flame instantly if rubbed together. He was convinced that the flames were caused not by friction but by something inherent in the nature of the phosphorus and sulfur themselves. He was right. He had uncovered the principal that would ultimately lead to the modern match. In the early nineteenth century, many different chemical fire-starting devices were developed in Europe. Some used Boyle’s phosphorus/sulfur combination, others involved gaseous hydrogen, but all were quite cumbersome and dangerous.

John Walker (1781-1859)

  • In 1826 a pharmacist at 59 High Street, Stockton-on-Tees (England), called John Walker (1781-1859) produced 'sulphuretted peroxide strikeables', which were a yard long, and then developments followed reasonably quickly. The chemicals he used were antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch. Walker did not patent his "Congreves" as he called the matches (alluding to the Congreve's rocket invented in 1808). He put the substance on sale in April 1827 in the form of friction matches. They came supplied with a piece of folded sandpaper for scraping against. The price was a shilling plus 2d extra for the tin. The sandpaper was supplied free. His first sale of the matches was on April 7, 1827, to a Mr. Hixon, a solicitor in the town. Walker made little money from his invention. He died in 1859 at the age of 78 and is buried in the Norton Parish Churchyard in Stockton. In 1830 Walker was visited by Michael Faraday who is thought to have encouraged Walker to patent his invention. One Samuel Jones saw Walker's "Congreves" and decided to market them, calling his matches "Lucifers". "Lucifers" became popular especially among smokers, but they had a bad burning odor.


Jakob Friedrich Kammerer (1796 - 23 October 1857)

Charles Sauria (1812 - 1895)

Janos Irinyi (17 May 1817 - 17 December 1895)

Gustaf Erik Pasch (1788-1862)

  • In 1844, Professor Gustaf Erik Pasch received a patent for invention of the safety match. Pasch replaced poisonous yellow phosphorus with non-poisonous red phosphorus. He also separated the chemical ingredients for the match tip and put the phosphorous on a striking surface on the outside of the box. Matches could be lit only on this striking surface. The safety match was born. This was a significant invention, which made Sweden world famous. Unfortunately, production was complicated and expensive.

  • In 1845 Anton Schrötter von Kristelli (26.11.1802-15.04.1875), a chemist and mineralogist, discovered amorphous red phosphorus.

Anton Schrötter von Kristelli (26 November 1802 - 15 April 1875)

Johan Edvard Lundström (1815-1888)

  • In 1855, a Swede, Johan Edvard Lundström (1815-1888) produced the first red phosphorus "safety matches", following the discovery of red phosphorus in 1845. Red phosphorus was first manufactured in quantity by the firm Albright in Birmingham, England from 1851.

  • In 1864, the 28-year-old engineer Alexander Lagerman (1836-1904) designed the first automated match machine. It was at this time, as manufacturing shifted from manual labor to mass production, that safety matches from Jönköping (Sweden) matches were exported all over the world and became world famous.


Alexander Lagerman (1836-1904)

Cover of Vulcan factory
  • In 1868, the Vulcan AB match factory was founded in Tidaholm, Sweden. Today, the Tidaholm factory, owned by Swedish Match, is considered to have the most technologically advanced match production line in the world. Environmental considerations are an important part of the manufacturing process and dangerous chemicals have been removed and matchboxes are made of recycled paper.

  • In 1889 book matches were invented by an American named Joshua Pusey, an attorney from Lima (Pennsylvania), after he wondered why they had to be so bulky. Interestingly they didn't take off until the Mendelssohn Opera Company used them to advertise their opening night, and suddenly, everyone wanted them. Matchbooks are still used to advertise such things as restaurants and they are available from some outlets with your personal details on them. He called his matchbook matches "Flexibles". Pusey's patent was unsuccessfully challenged by the Diamond Match Company who had invented a similar matchbook (their striker was on the outside, Pusey's was on the inside). His patent was later purchased by the Diamond Match Company in 1896 for $4,000 and a job offer.

Joshua Pusey (27 March 1842 - 8 May 1906)