Archive for Thursday, March 5, 2009

The history of zippers

March 5, 2009

The other day when it got so cold I put on my reversible jacket and had trouble with the zipper. Since it works from both sides, it was pretty tricky getting everything where it belonged to get it started so the slider would go up easily. On a reversible zipper you can work from either side. Amazing!!

In 1937 I got a new jacket with a zipper. At age 9 it was such an exciting experience to have something to replace buttons. I decided to look up some of the zipper history. At that time they were new to the boys in my family, but the original concept for the patent was invented by Elias Howe in 1851. At that time he was so busy inventing and patenting the sewing machine he put the zipper aside thinking there would be no market for it.

The zipper went through nine patents over the years starting with shoes and rubber galoshes. Whitcomb L. Judson loved to experiment with different kinds of gadgets and he wanted to help a friend fasten his shoes with one hand. It was known as a “clasp locker.” This was in 1893. They were used in the apparel industry by 1905 but still were not considered practical. A Swedish born scientist, Gideon Sundback who was an employee of Judson, patented in 1913 what he called a “hookless” fastener. In 1917 he improved the “separable fastener” that was more streamlined and reliable. One of his first customers was the U.S. Army, which applied these to clothing and gear for use in World War I.

In 1925 a B. F. Goodrich executive decided to market galoshes with these fasteners. When he was demonstrating his product, he was sliding the fastener up and down on the boot and made the remark “zipper up” echoing the sound made by the clever devise, therefore the fasteners came to be known as zippers. After 1925, zippers came to be used in other clothing articles and its name was used as well so Mr. Goodrich sued to protect his trademark but was allowed to retain the trademark only on zipper boots.

The zipper moved into the world of many useful products that we would not want to live without.

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