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February 10, 2020 35 mins

Mastery of fire was one of humanity’s greatest technological leaps forward, but even the ability to create fire only gets you so far if the flame is not easily generated and/or transferred. Thus, the millennia-spanning quest to create the subtle technology we so easily take for granted: the modern matchstick. Join Robert and Joe for a multi-episode Invention exploration on fire-generation technology.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
The Zeros taught us phosphorus. We learned to like the
fire by playing glaciers. When a boy and tender guest
by power of opposite to balance odd, if white a
red must be paralysis. Our primer dumb unto vitality. Welcome

(00:27):
to Invention, a production of I Heart Radio. Hey, welcome
to Invention. My name is Robert Lamb and I'm Joe McCormick.
And that was a little Emily Dickinson to catch things
ablaze here as we begin our third and I guess
final episode on matches. Who would have known that she
had a poem by chemistry this one. I had never

(00:50):
heard of this, this particular poem before. I was just
looking up. I was just researching phosphorus and then lo
and behold, there's a poem by Emily Dickinson. And I
was like, oh, well, we've got to include this. I've
got to do a cold reading of this poem. I'm
not sure it's actually about chemistry. I have no idea
what this one's about. Like like many of her great
poems that I really do enjoy a reading line by line,
it ultimately becomes very difficult to understand what they're about.

(01:13):
If anything. Yeah, Like it's it's almost I guess certainly
not literally about phosphorus, but it is at least using
phosphorus as a metaphor for something. It's bringing up tinder
and the white and the red. Well, I can't help
but wonder if that is a reference to white and
red phosphorus we'll be discussing in this episode now. In

(01:33):
the last episode, we finally got to the friction match
attributed to the English chemist and and druggist John Walker,
who in the eighteen twenties put together this paste made
of antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, all bound together with a gum,
put that on the end of a stick, gave it
to you with a piece of sand paper and said

(01:53):
have fun. That's right. We also discussed the properties of phosphorus,
white phosphorus, and some of the danger us sounding inventions,
or not just dangerous sounding, but outright dangerous inventions that
sought to take advantage of its incendiary properties. Right. And then,
as pointed out in one of our sources for this episode,
uh an article by Pollock, Brown and Reuben that was
published in two thousand fifteen in Cranio Maximo, Facial Trauma

(02:18):
and reconstruction. Around eighteen sixty, phosphorus and strike matches began
to come together in a major way, right, because there
are different recipes you can use for a kind of
strike match, right. Uh. Obviously, phosphorus has an advantage because
it has uh the the ability has a low ignition
point in the ability to ignite in the presence of oxygen,

(02:38):
so it's not hard to get it burning. Then would
also sometimes be combined with like some sulfur elements. There
are a few different ways you can put together the
chemical head of a match, but phosphorus is clearly a
winner for that recipe. Yeah. The authors here mentioned that
in eighteen fifty nine, which would have been the year
of Walker's death, he found uh white phosphorus also sometimes
referred to as yellow phosphorus being added to sulfur based

(03:02):
match dick coatings to trigger an even more volatile flame,
which is you can imagine it could be more beneficial,
especially if you were in a trying environment. Even today,
you can get you can get matches that flare up
more and a little or a little more you know,
almost explosive at the initial strike. Another thing I'm not
positive about, but I kind of wonder if having more

(03:23):
power in the phosphorus and less in the sulfur would
make the matches less noxious in terms of fumes and smell,
because remember in the last episode, one of the main
types of matches were these things called lucifers, the sulfur
based strike matches that were being produced by a guy
out of London I think named Samuel Jones. And you know,
it was like warned, it was like, be careful in

(03:44):
haling this stuff. It is not for the week of lung. Now.
According to Jamie Wizniak, who was one of the authors
that we referenced in the previous episodes, who wrote wrote
a piece about the history of matches, you had an
earlier innovator by the name of Jacob frederic Or, who
is often credited as the first manufacturer of the phosphorus
based friction match. However, French chemist Charles Mark Saria, who

(04:08):
lived eighteen twelve through demonstrated the design earlier than that,
and all of this began to get going really in
earnest around um eighteen thirty, but again eighteen sixty. By
that point, the white phosphorus friction match was apparently very popular.
So here we go a new evolution in our match technology.

(04:29):
They were very popular, they were handy, but as it
turns out, their manufacturer was coming at a horrifying price. Yes,
so to be clear that there are no shortage of
horrors to be found within the Industrial Revolution, the world's
growing demand for manufactured goods, in the rapidly changing ways
that these goods were produced and introduced a variety of

(04:50):
environments and practices that were harmful to human and environmental
well being. So the manufacturer of the phosphorus match, though,
presents a particularly pronounced and horrifying example, and that is
in the creation of these phosphorus matches, Uh, the individuals
who work to create them day in, day out, hour

(05:11):
upon hour began to suffer from what is known as
Fossey jaw, or more officially, phosphorus necrosis of the jaw.
This is a necrosis of the bones in the face
that was common enough that it got a cute nickname
Fossey jaw. And somehow that makes it so much worse,
you know, especially when you're looking at photographs. I mean,

(05:32):
this was an age of a photographic evidence. We have
photographs of the kind of damage that was wrought on
people's facial features. Yeah, like what if you had like
a cute, funny name for cholera, Like that's telling you
you're getting cholera away too much? Yeah, it makes it. Yeah,
it just makes it all the more sinister. Um. So,
humans have been working with white phosphorus since its discovery
in the seventeenth century. But it's one thing for an

(05:55):
alchemist or a chemist to encounter the fumes of its
um of of working with it, you know, perhaps in
passing inside of a layer or a workshop. It's quite
another for these fumes to be summoned in an industrial
environment and inflicted on unsuspecting workers day in and day out.
And that's exactly what happened. So Pollock at All discussed
this in that that paper. The full title is Fossey

(06:17):
Jaw and this Fosse Jaw of the nineteenth and twenty
first century, The Dioternity of John Walker and the Friction
match Man. I had to look up the word diuternity.
I was not familiar with that one. Apparently it means
having the quality of long lasting nous. So they point
out that the vats that were used to create these
the phosphorus pace for these matches. It released all these

(06:39):
toxic fumes, and these were particularly pronounced in the dipping
centers and in the drawing rooms for the matches. As such,
the dippers and the handlers were exposed to it the most,
right because there were a number of different jobs. I mean,
one of the things that came about during the Industrial
Revolution was like the division of labor into smaller and
smaller jobs repeated more and more. So like there were
some people whose job was just to like cram the

(07:02):
matches into the boxes as fast as they could and whatever,
and so like those people were at lower risk than
the people who were dealing directly with the fumes at
the more volatile stage. And these sort are some pretty
tough fumes. I mean, we know today that as little
as fifty milligrams of white phosphorus can prove fatal, for
for instance, and and here that the fumes are just
you know, and imagining the places where these uh, these

(07:25):
matches are being produced, the ventilation is probably not that great,
and the levels of the toxicity from this exposure basically
broke down as follows. This again according to Pollock at all. So,
first of all, ginger ittis within three to five years
of exposure, so gum disease. Yeah. Uh, and then also
sequestriation of alveola crest bone within three to five years

(07:47):
of exposure. Now, sequestration in the medical sense is abnormal separation,
and the area in question this is the uh, the
most coronal portion of the bones surrounding the two. So yeah,
as in common terms, people would talk about the teeth
becoming loose, because like the bone and the gums, everything

(08:08):
that's sort of holding them in place is getting loosened
up and coming away. Yeah. The fun part two is
that if you read this entire paper, you will begin
to feel your teeth loosen a little bit. I got
so gross Starward researching this episode. Yeah, that's grim stuff.
So yeah, this would also this could also result in
lost teeth, of course, uh, because then the next level

(08:28):
is full on osteo necrosis of mandibular and maxillary bone stock.
This would be the Fossey jaw within three to five
years of exposure. So we're talking quote death of bone
tissue due to temporary or permanent loss of blood supply
to the bones. And the authors described this resulting in
quote unrelenting jaw pain. Yeah, and of course you can

(08:50):
understand why, because the bone is basically turning into a sponge,
you know, like it's like losing density because it's not
being able to replace itself with new tissue, because is
not getting the blood flow. It needs something that's even
more eerie and kind of hard to believe, but I
read read mentions of this and a couple of sources.
There is this idea of the phosphoric luminescence as the

(09:11):
gums begin to separate and the jawbone begins to decay.
Apparently some victims gums would glow a faint, pale green
in the dark. That is horrifying. And yet there's more,
because this could also lead to oral and oro cutaneous fistula.
These were also common, and fistially means connections between two hollows,

(09:33):
so like unnatural connections between two hollows, and with increased exposure,
they could also develop fossy lung resulting in cough speutium
production and hemoptysis, and hemoptysis is coughing up blood, and
then you could also develop Fossey brain. This would be
where the individual would would would have seizures. Obviously this

(09:54):
could be fatal. You could also become anemic. This would
be where the blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells
or or hemoglobin. And then also you could have Fossey
marrow and this would just be reduced white blood cells.
Now there are lots of existing photographs of what this
is like, it's uh, it's horrible. Yeah. Yeah, we're talking
complete decomposition of the jaw and extensive inflammation of the

(10:17):
surrounding tissue. And it did not apparently take the match
industry long to realize that there were some serious issues
going on. Yeah, I was reading actually as early as
eighteen fifty two. Charles Dickens wrote about quote one of
the Evils of matchmaking in his weekly magazine Household Words,
which include it. Included reports from different matchstick factories about

(10:40):
the like the disease and the conditions there, Like he
talks about one factory that I don't know exactly what
it was they did, especially he he reports like some
hygiene conditions they're involved, like washing and stuff like that,
But I don't know exactly how that would contribute to
reducing the exposure to the vapors or something. But he's
like they were were doing dental washings for the individuals

(11:03):
and he doesn't say, dental It sounds more like some
kind of bathing or something. But I don't know. I
don't fully understand what was happening there. But he at
least says, you know, in some factories the conditions aren't
as bad as in others, and it seems to be
suggested that you can do something to prevent this. But
I don't know, I mean maybe, I mean, I'm sure
Charles Dickens was not an epidemiologist here. Well, you know,

(11:23):
I think I'll probably get to this in a bit.
But but later on you do see some of these
factories implementing dental checkups and some level of dental care
for the individuals. So that's why my mind immediately thought
went to like the idea of maybe like a mouthwash
being instituted for for everybody, to what a degree that
it would actually help, you know, I'm not sure. So

(11:45):
I found a good post about Fossey jaw and the
the actual medical progression here by Susan Isaac on the
blog for the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons
in England, and a lot of this post focus is
on the experience of a surgeon named James Rushmore Would
who wrote a medical article in eighteen fifty seven about

(12:07):
his attempts to help a patient named Cornelia, who was
a sixteen year old girl. She worked full time in
a New York match stick factory for about two and
a half years. And I will warn you this is
going to get pretty graphic for a minute here, but
I think it's important to to drive home what these
workers were facing, and so U consider yourself warned. Uh

(12:28):
So quote in May eighteen fifty five, she was seized
with a toothache and swelling on the right side of
her lower jaw. To relieve the pain, first her gums
were lanced and later a tooth was extracted, but the
swelling gradually increased until a spontaneous opening formed under her jaw,
which continuously discharged pus. Despite this, she continued to work

(12:50):
in the factory until a week before she was admitted
to Bellevue Hospital on seventeenth December eighteen fifty five. Uh So, So,
once she's at Bellevue, she starts to have real difficulty eating,
obviously because it's too painful for her to chew, and
she had severe pain in the jaw and swelling of
the face, and eventually would decided that the only way

(13:11):
to save her was to remove the decaying bone on
the right side of her jaw, and this is an intervention.
At the time, they thought that you remove the decaying
bone and that prevents the spread of the phosphorus poisoning
to other parts of the body, like it prevents it
spreading to the brain. So this surgery took place in
January of eighteen fifty six. There was no anesthesia. He

(13:32):
had to use what was called a chainsaw to cut
down the middle of the jaw, and that this wouldn't
be a motorized chain saw like we have today. This
would be more like a chain or a wire pulled
back and forth by hand to saw the bones. Isaac
compares it to a big cheese wire. And then in
the middle of the procedure, the chain broke and he

(13:54):
had to get the rest of the jaw half off
using for saws. So she survived the surgery and she
was healing, but then the left side of her jaw
started showing the same phosphorus poisoning symptoms the right had,
and in the middle of February they had to go
back in and remove the entire remaining lower jaw. As
she was treated with loudon um, and in the following

(14:14):
days it says she received wine and quote a daily
lead an opium wash. But amazingly, Cornelias survived the surgery
and she was still able to move her tongue in mouth.
Apparently she recovered to better health after this, and would
mention that he apparently was proud he had somewhat preserved
the appearance of her face despite having to remove the

(14:36):
entire lower jaw. My goodness. But yeah, I mean, it's unbelievable,
especially given the medical technology of the day. Like they
didn't have antibiotics at this point. They couldn't give her that.
So I'm sure a lot of people going in for
these kind of surgeries probably didn't fare as well as
Cornelia did. Uh. And the surgery is just as described
as unimaginable to right, and and and and indeed we're

(14:58):
seeing this carry out prob by an extremely gifted search
and of the day. You know, not everybody was was
lucky enough to have access to someone like that. Yeah,
but so this is what tons of workers in these
factories of the period we're facing. And one of the
hardest things to understand is that it wasn't like nobody
understood what was going on. You know. It wasn't like
nobody knew that phosphorus could be bad for you. Oh yeah,

(15:21):
I mean white phosphorus was already recognized as an irritant poison,
and poison literature of the eighteen tins bone necrosis was
reported as early as eighteen forty. By eighteen sixty nine,
phosphorus wasn't use as a poison by criminals. And this
duding wasn't doing large part because white phosphorus pace was
being used in animal poisons like for you know, poisoning

(15:41):
of rats and vermin and whatnot. Um and there was
no cure. That was another reason it was again popular
with with criminals, at least until an individual by the
name of Jacques Person who lived in eighteen sixteen through
eighteen eighty conducted experiments on dogs and found that turpentine
could be It could be used to treat such poisonings

(16:03):
as it hinders the him a globin attacking properties of
phosphorus in the blood. Early in eighteen thirty nine. In fact,
the hazards were to some degree appreciated within the industry.
Uh The issue contributed to a major London strike in
eighteen eighty eight, for example. Yeah, I'm gonna come back
to that in detail in just a minute. And like
I mentioned earlier, match factories began to offer free dental

(16:24):
care and regular inspections for employees. Um I believe it
is that that cranio facial paper actually had a photograph
of one of these dental clinics from a match factory.
And yet the use of white foster has continued until
the early twentieth century, when an international ban came into
place in I believe nineteen o six, and major international

(16:44):
manufacturers followed suit over the following decade. Well, maybe we
should take a quick break and then when we come back,
we can talk more about the rebellion of the match
stick factory workers and the strike of eighteen eighty Alright,
we're back. Let's talk about the match sticks strike. Okay.

(17:05):
So I was reading about the British campaign against conditions
in match stick factories in the eighteen eighties in a
short article by University of Bradford nursing and healthcare scholar
named Catherine Best. And this was especially good because through
it I found a link to an original document from
the period. That's just amazing. Um, So Specifically, she is

(17:27):
focused on the match stick girls who worked in the
East End of London, often for fourteen hours a day
for low pay under pretty miserable conditions. For example, employers
would impose fines on the workers for all kinds of
ways they screwed up and at the job, so like
if they accidentally spilled matches on their bench, you could

(17:48):
get a fine, or if you talk to the person
next to you during a shift, you could get fined.
So just all sorts of punitive measures to try and
ensure production goes off without a without a stitch. Yes,
and most importantly, there, of course, is this constant exposure
to the now well known hazards of white phosphorus vapors
like as we discussed, the negative health effects of white

(18:10):
phosphorus were well known by this time, but also at
this time they were not sufficient workplace safety laws in place,
so there are no laws to protect the workers. Really,
factory owners are just sort of on their honor, and
of course many of them are going to decide, well,
what am I going to make less money or am
I going to subject my workers to this peril as

(18:30):
one of the costs of doing business. You can guess
which one a lot of them chose. Oh yeah, because
you can also imagine workers and I mean the factory
owners having an attitude of like, well, we'll do something
about this later. Right now, we got to focus on
on the profits. But of course, uh, the the white
phosphorus poisoning that's going to come in every day for
work on time, it's never going to fail to show up.

(18:51):
That is a very good point. So then in the
year eighteen eight, Annie Bissant wrote an expose of the
conditions that Anton May, which Catherine Best points out, this
is confusing, is somehow not the same as a different
modern company called Bryant and May, which also makes matches.
So so I guess whoever the modern one is, don't

(19:14):
hold this story about this other company against them. But anyway,
so Annie bisson wrote this article for a London socialist
journal published on June and so she goes through explaining
the impossibly low wages they get paid and how you
know you can barely survive on them, and then she
describes factory conditions, including all of the supposed infractions that

(19:38):
workers get charged fines for, including the ones I mentioned
a minute ago, but also things like quote one girl
was fined for letting the web twist round a machine
in the endeavor to save her fingers from being cut,
and she was sharply told to take care of the
machine quote never mind your fingers. Another who carried out

(19:58):
the instructions and law to finger thereby was left unsupported
when she was helpless. The wage covers the duty of
submitting to an occasional blow from the foreman, one who
appears to be a gentleman of variable temper and quote
clouds them quote when he is mad. Bissan also describes
this unbelievable episode I was getting so mad just reading

(20:21):
about it, where the factory owner, Mr Theodore Bryant wanted
to build a statue in honor of a Mr Gladstone.
She doesn't say exactly who this is, and I'm not positive,
but I think it probably refers to the British politician
William Ewart Gladstone, who had been the Prime Minister of
the UK several times in the late eighteen hundreds, and

(20:42):
so the owner he likes this public figure, probably this politician.
He wants to fund the creation of this statue and
his honor and quote in order that his work girls
might have the privilege of contributing. He stopped one shilling
each out of their wages, and further deprived them of
a half day's work by closing the factory quote giving
them a holiday. Oh my god. You know we mentioned

(21:04):
Dickens earlier, and it's amazing how you know it's as
poorly as we perceive Ebenezer Scrooge prior to his m
his his great change, Like Scrooge is nowhere near as
bad as this guy is sounding. No, at least because
because Scrooge at least got to like be mean to
your face, like you got to fully acknowledge, like, Okay,
my boss is mean, and he like knows he's mean.

(21:27):
This guy is like, wouldn't you love the privilege of
contributing to this statue that I want to build an
honor of a politician. Well, I'll just dock your pay
so that you can contribute. That's just that's that's unimaginable,
And according to Pissan, this leads to some of the
workers gathering as the statue is unveiled, bringing bricks with
them and pelting it at it's unveiling, and then intentionally

(21:51):
cutting themselves and smearing their blood on the marble. Because
the statue they believe was paid for by their blood.
Oh my god, my goodness. I don't know if there's
a movie about this, but there should be absolutely, I mean,
this is dramatic. And then at the end Bissant encourages
a boycott of Bryant and May matches. No, no big
surprise there. She's like, you know, we're gonna make them pay,

(22:14):
and she writes, quote, Oh, if we had but a
people's Dante to make a special circle in the inferno
for those who live on this misery and suck the
wealth out of the starvation of helpless girls. Failing a
poet to hold up their conduct to the execration of
posterity enshrined in deathless verse, let us strive to touch

(22:34):
their consciences i e. Their pockets, and let us at
least avoid being quote partakers of their sins by abstaining
from using their commodities. Yeah, and this is this is
ultimately why we need We do need laws and regulations
in place to make sure that you know, the certain
a certain threshold is reached and maintained by companies like this. Yeah.

(22:59):
I mean, even with laws and regulations in place, employers
can be infuriating sometimes, but like you know, without any leash,
without without laws and regulations to try and circumvent like
like this, this is the level that the waters fall too.
So obviously the bosses did not love this article that
she published, and so it led to a series of

(23:21):
retaliatory actions by the factory bosses, which in turn led
to a strike of more than four hundred women and
girls who worked in the factories, and eventually it was resolved.
The strikers negotiated a list of demands from the owners,
but still it wasn't until almost two decades later that
white phosphorus was made illegal for match manufacturing in the

(23:42):
UK and was according to Best basically taxed out of
business practicality in the United States. So, like she said,
they put a punitive tax on it that made it
not feasible to use white phosphorus anymore. Again, kind of
speaking to their their conscious right in their pocketbooks. Yeah, yeah,
the conscience and the pockets Now another huge change. Perhaps

(24:03):
one of the more important changes here came via the
discovery of a morphous or red phosphorus in eighteen forty
five by Austrian chemist anton Of von Schroeter I Gotta
admit it made me think about Star Trek. You know,
it's like so like red matter, yeah and the stuff.
It sounds like an alternative sci fi version of something. Yeah,

(24:24):
but I mean in a sense it's it's pretty interesting. Basically,
red phosphorus is obtained through the heat treatment of white
phosphorus in a sealed, lightless environment, which is a detail
I love because that makes me think back to white
phosphorus is alchemical origins. You know, it sounds like something
from the world of alchemy that it must be brewed, Uh,

(24:44):
you know, away from the light of the sun, in
the darkness in the pit of my layer. Yeah. So
red phosphorus is comparatively non toxic and does not spontaneously combust. Uh.
Swedish chemist jons Jacob Brazelius saw the potential for match
is and an author Albright, developed a means of mass
producing red phosphorus by eighteen fifty one, and this would

(25:07):
pave the way for what we come to know as
the safety match. Well, maybe we should take a quick
break and then we come back. We can explore the
safety match. Alright, we're back. So at this point we
have friction matches that no longer depend on a toxic poison.
But there was another risk factor with the friction match,

(25:29):
and this is this one is I think exemplified by
the cool images you might have seen a various villains
striking matches on say the brick wall of an alley
and then lighting their smoke or their belt buckle, or
with their fingernails the shoe on the shoe. Yeah, that's
a good cartoon character move. Yeah, and it's it's there's
it's something magical about It's like I can summon fire

(25:50):
out of the very rocks, out of the space between
my fingernails, etcetera. Striking a match on a part of
your body is kind of like the people who like
to open bottles with their teeth. Yeah, this raises an
interesting side question. I forget what it was, but there
was some time in the past several months where I
caught my son attempting to open something with his teeth
and I had to say, I was like, what are

(26:11):
you doing? And I had to bring myself down and
not because then I realized, have I asked myself, have
I ever said don't use your teeth to open something? Like?
I don't think I had. Um, it makes me wonder
like to what extent the using of our teeth to
open things and to perform various tasks is kind of
ingrained in us, and you know we you know, if

(26:33):
not for a parental voice telling us, no, you don't
need to do that, or if not for life lessons
that show you that the dangers of trying to open
too many bottles with your teeth, that we would just
depend on them. Maybe I am just weak willed by nature,
but I am not a tooth opener. I do not
have it in my d na to put my teeth
on that random thing. I do not, at least not.

(26:53):
I don't know if I did when I was a kid,
but I certainly don't now, and that's one of the
reasons I was kind of like horrified when I when
I caught my son trying to open something with his teeth.
Though I do remember thinking this is hilarious in retrospect
that when I was a kid and I saw other
kids doing that, you know, they open the coke bottle
with their teeth or whatever, I remember thinking, wow, that
person is really brave. Of course, now we know they

(27:15):
just didn't have a responsible adult in their life to
yell at them. That's a guy can depend on alright, So,
um so yeah, these strike anywhere matches that uh that
that that's just strike off of a wall or a
boot or what have you. Uh So, if a match
head can ignite via friction like this, then it can
potentially obtain that friction not only um you know, on purpose,

(27:38):
but you know, when you're striking it, but also accidentally
by striking against, among other things, their match heads. And
of course this would not be an issue if you
only carried a single match at a time, or you
kept individual matches stored inside of friction proof storage cylinders
or something, but that's hardly practical. Matches frequently come in boxes,

(27:59):
and you do not want an entire box of matches
suddenly igniting in your carriage and your home and your satchel,
on a ship or you know, wherever you happen to
be carrying them. Usually bad when your cargo spontaneously catches fire.
Yes right, yeah, nobody, nobody needs that. So the answer
to all this is going to be the Safety match,
and it is going to merge out of Sweden. So

(28:20):
Sweden was really big in the match game at the time.
This is where Alexander Lagerman would bring the first automated
match fabricator online in eighteen sixty four, and the resulting
high speed production would lead to the invention of the
match book by American Joshua Pussee in the eighteen nineties.
But before all of this, the idea emerged that the

(28:42):
red phosphorus necessary to the match striking could be placed elsewhere,
not in the head of the match, but in a
special strike plate on the side of the box. So
you'd be like taking the phosphorus and the sulfur away
from each other, and you don't just get to hang
out in the same room. We'll put you together when
it's time, all right. And so this brings me back

(29:04):
to again to my childhood of playing with matches, watching
cool villains and cowboys and whatnot, strike matches off of
just random things. And I remember trying to do this,
you know, with a safety match, and and I remember
my disappointment at not being able to carry this out.
Did you think it was a problem with the matches
or did you think it was a problem with yourself?

(29:26):
I well, you know, once you've destroyed half a box
of matches trying to look cool, you realize, well, maybe
it's not me hit as the matches. Maybe there's something
different about these matches. Uh, and and that is indeed
the case. So yeah, the idea is to take that
red phosphorus and put it in that strike plate, so
the match head contains like paraffin or sulfur while the

(29:48):
red the red phosphorus is again in the strike plate
along with something like powdered glass to help create the friction. Now,
Swedish chemist Gustav Erik Posh is credited with first devising
this technique, but he wasn't able to fully realize it.
I believe I was reading that he was having trouble
getting the you know, the chemical just right. He couldn't
he couldn't make it happen. The idea was there, uh,

(30:10):
and he had that he was on to the right track,
but he just couldn't make it work in a consistent manner. Yeah,
I've usually seen credit given to somebody named Johan Lundstrom. Yes,
this would be the Lundstrom brothers, John and Carl, who
improved on these designs and then they introduced the safety
match to the market in the late eighteen fifties. Now
strike anywhere matches are still available. I mean that's where

(30:32):
the cowboys and the villains were getting them. Obviously, some
of my cooler friends had them when I was a kid,
and they these would you know, generally contain say, phosphorus
sesquist sulfide instead of white phosphorus. But there have been
journal articles about poisoning's mostly I was finding them from
the first half of the twentieth century concerning match and

(30:52):
max matchbox dermatitis from the use of such matches. They
even made mention of tooth loosening as well, so again
it seems like there were still some health concerns with
with with these this variety of phosphorus match Now, of course,
the the evolution of the match doesn't stop there. We
eventually get the match book, which comes online, and then

(31:16):
the matchbook becomes of course very popular for advertising first
or spreading propaganda, especially in the age of smoking, you know,
I mean, this is the how you have your handy light,
you know, if you don't be. In addition to the
lighter technology, they're mainly useful for writing a clue in
in a detective story, yes, and then forgetting about it,

(31:37):
losing the match book or you wind up murdered and
someone else reads your matchbook. You also have the incense match,
where something else is added to the chemistry of the
match head in order to produce a more pleasing aroma.
You also have varying match book designs. I was looking
around it at just some of the different designs you
can get nowadays from major match manufacturers. One that I

(32:01):
remember encountering pretty early in my life was the popular
lipstick box. So it's a little more like a little casket.
I mean, match boxes are always going to be caskets
for dolls and action figures and occasionally actual animals, but
this one is more slender. Uh. So they're a huge
variety of different box designs. You also see long fireplace matches,

(32:23):
right because because sometimes you need to get the fire
further in to say, you know, the logs of a
of a fireplace that have been prepared. Also, there's the
subject of waterproof matches, and you can you can also
make waterproof matches using a variety of different recipes to
treat normal safety matches. But it also seems that nothing

(32:43):
quite beats keeping your matches as dry as possible through
other means such as waterproof cylinders. But then again, they're
gonna be situations where you're trying to use matches uh
in say, very moist or rainy conditions, and that's where
the necessity comes into play. But then also some of
these environments will call for stronger burning matches, such as

(33:04):
lifeboat matches, which are just a variety that are going
to ignite and burn, you know, brighter and stronger uh at,
you know, higher temperature. Man, this history of matches has
proven so much more interesting than I might have guessed.
We got to see the iceman, we got two muskets,
we got to uh nineteenth century labor conditions, We've got
to crazy medical misadventures. This has been all over the place. Yeah,

(33:26):
we had we had alchemists, we had plenty of the elder,
we had Emily Dickinson, um we ebonez are Scrooge popped up.
You really couldn't ask for a better journey through human
techno history. It's been fun. But maybe we gotta put
out the light we do. It's burning a little too
close to our fingertips. It is time to just go
ahead and blow it out and uh stomp it under
our feet. But we will be back with future episodes

(33:49):
of Invention where we will continue this journey through techno history,
exploring the various inventions and innovations that changed the way
we live and and ultimately what we are in the meantime,
if you want to check out other episodes, you can
head on over to invention pod dot com and that
will probably shoot you over to the I Heart listing
for our show. Well it we've been having some issues today.

(34:11):
Well yeah, well just this morning. I think those are
sorted out. It should point you in the right direction.
If not, you can just go to the the I
heart page. Look us up, find us there, subscribe, rate
and review, and wherever you get the podcast, because it's
available everywhere, just make sure that you subscribe, that you
rate the you review. These are the things that help
us out huge Thanks as always to our excellent audio

(34:32):
producer Seth Nicholas Johnson. If you would like to get
in touch with us with feedback on this episode or
any other, to suggest a topic for the future, just
to say hello, you can email us at contact at
invention pod dot com. Invention is production of I Heart Radio.
For more podcasts from my heart Radio because the iHeart
Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your

(34:54):
favorite shows,

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