It is the last day of April which means the last day of the most inspirational blogging contest, The A2Z Challenge. I’m so sad that the challenge is over. I had a lot of fun during this month, and of course I’ll participate every year ISA. This day is the “Z” day. Throughout the month, I’ve been telling you the stories of inventions that had a major impact on our lives, world and history. We’ve seen some amazing inventions and the journey to its achievement. We were surprised to find some modern inventions to have existed in our ancient civilizations. I hope you enjoyed my theme this month.
Today, I’m gonna tell you a very short story about an very common – not so important – invention we use everyday. The Zippers.
It was a long way up for the humble zipper, the mechanical wonder that has kept so much in our lives ‘together.’ On its way up the zipper has passed through the hands of several dedicated inventors, none convinced the general public to accept the zipper as part of everyday costume. The magazine and fashion industry made the novel zipper the popular item it is today, but it happened nearly eighty years after the zipper’s first appearance.
Elias Howe, who invented the sewing machine received a patent in 1851 for an ‘Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.’ Perhaps it was the success of the sewing machine, which caused Elias not to pursue marketing his clothing closure. As a result, Howe missed his chance to become the recognized ‘Father of the Zip.’
Forty-two years later, Whitcomb Judson, who invented a pneumatic street railway, marketed a “Clasp
Locker”. The device served as a (more complicated) hook-and-eye shoe fastener. With the support of businessman Colonel Lewis Walker, Judson launched the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture the new device. The clasp locker had its public debut at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and met with little commercial success. Judson is sometimes given credit as the inventor of the zipper, but he never made a practical device.
Swedish-born (who later immigrated to Canada), Gideon Sundback, an electrical engineer, was hired to work for the Universal Fastener Company. Good design skills and a marriage to the plant-manager’s daughter Elvira Aronson led Sundback to the position of head designer at Universal. He was responsible for improving the far from perfect ‘Judson C-curity Fastener.’ Unfortunately, Sundback’s wife died in 1911. The grieving husband busied himself at the design table and by December of 1913, he had designed the modern zipper.
Gideon Sundback increased the number of fastening elements from four per inch to ten or eleven, had two facing-rows of teeth that pulled into a single piece by the slider, and increased the opening for the teeth guided by the slider. The patent for the ‘Separable Fastener’ was issued in 1917. Sundback also created the manufacturing machine for the new zipper. The ‘S-L’ or scrapless machine took a special Y-shaped wire and cut scoops from it, then punched the scoop dimple and nib, and clamped each scoop on a cloth tape to produce a continuous zipper chain. Within the first year of operation, Sundback’s zipper-making machinery was producing a few hundred feet of fastener per day.
The popular ‘zipper’ name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company, when they decided to use Gideon’s fastener on a new type of rubber boots or galoshes and renamed the device the zipper, the name that lasted. Boots and tobacco pouches with a zippered closure were the two chief uses of the zipper during its early years. It took twenty more years to convince the fashion industry to seriously promote the novel closure on garments.