October 30, 2018
In 1844, Swedish professor Gustaf Erik Pasch (1788-1862) invented the safety match. Swedish inventor and industrialist Johan Edvard (1815-1888) and his brother, Carl Frans Lundström (1823-1917), later refined and patented Pasch’s invention. They commercially manufactured non-phosphorous safety matches, similar to matches used today. The brothers opened a match factory in Jönköping, Sweden, in 1844 and debuted the safety matches to the public at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1855. The non-phosphorous matches with a separate striking feature proved safer than the earlier iterations of friction matches, first used in the late 1820s.
The majority of match manufacturers were headquarted in Sweden in the late 1800s, but there were also a number of factories in the United States and other parts of Europe. In the U.S., businessman Ohio Columbus Barber (1841-1920) founded the Diamond Match Company in Akron, Ohio, in 1881. The Diamond Company was the largest manufacturer of matches in the United States in the late 1800s and is still active today.
The Museum & Library owns a number of match boxes manufactured in Europe and the United States.
These manufacturers include the Tidaholm Match Company, now known as Swedish Match, the Diamond Match Company, and Three Stars Safety Match. Early match packaging was simple and usually only included a factory name and sometimes instructions for use. Later boxes not only illustrate the different brand names but also eye-catching designs printed on the front and back.
As matches gained popularity, businesses began to also use the packaging as a tool for inexpensive advertising and marketing. Match boxes featured illustrations related to food, liquor, beauty products, historical events, and even political propaganda. Match books enjoyed peak popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. Sales of matchbooks declined, as disposable lighters became more common and as numerous anti-smoking campaigns discouraged people from smoking.