Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Matches. The most primitive mode of obtaining- fire, and that still practised by many savage tribes, was by the rubbing together of pieces of wood. The next step was the use of pyrites and steel, by the striking of which sparks were obtained, which set alight pieces of dried cloth or other combustible material - the tinder. The first matches consisted of sulphur-tipped pieces of wood, which were set alight by the ignited tinder. At about the beginning of the present century a form of match was invented consisting of a wood splint, the end of which was coated with sulphur, sugar, and potassium chlorate, and which was ignited by dipping into a bottle containing asbestos soaked in strong sulphuric acid. This method presented obvious objections, and many other devices appear to have been tried and some forms of friction matches invented. None, however, met with any success, until a friction match known as the Congreve was brought out. Congreve matches consisted of wood splints dipped in molten sulphur, and tipped with a mixture of potassium chlorate and sulphide of antimony. These were ignited by drawing between pieces of sand-paper. Various improvements soon followed, and in 1833 phosphorus was used to replace the antimony sulphide, and matches almost like those in present usage were produced in various localities. The use of paraffin instead of sulphur for the dipping the splints did away with the noxious fumes and was commonly adopted; sulphur is, however, largely employed for cheap Continental matches. In the manufacture, on a larger scale, many practical difficulties had to be overcome, and much mechanical ingenuity has been spent in perfecting machines for cutting and shaping the wood, etc. The wood is first cut into circular blocks, and then turned upon a form of lathe, where a suitably-arranged cutter strips off a continuous strip of wood of the thickness of a single match. These strips are cut into single splints, dried, and then by ingeniously-conceived mechanism dipped into (1) melted paraffin, (2) the mixture that forms the head. They are then carefully dried and boxed. The igniting mixtures usually consist of potassium chlorate, or nitre and phosphorus, coloured with some pigment as red-lead, umber, etc., and made into a paste with gum. Safety matches were first invented by Bryant and May in 1855, and differ from the ordinary kind as they contain no phosphorus in the head of the match, which is composed of potassium chlorate, potassium bichromate, red-lead, and sulphide of antimony. The rubbing surface is coated with the non-poisonous amorphous or red phosphorus, and for ignition the matches must be rubbed upon this surface only. Cotton dipped in melted paraffin and wax is also employed in place of wood splints for the wax vestas largely used by smokers. Fusee matches, vesuvians, etc., consist of matches with large heads composed of some porous material, as bibulous paper, charcoal, etc., saturated with nitre solution, dried, and tipped with the ordinary igniting mixture. In America the manufacture is subject to a tax, and is an important source of revenue. In France it is carried on as a Government monopoly. In Germany it is well established amongst a large number of firms. In England two firms produce almost all the matches employed, i.e. Bryant and May, London, and Bell and Black, Glasgow. Of late years the manufacture has been increasing very largely in Norway and Sweden, the Swedish matches being very extensively employed.