Fun Fact February 4, 2020
4 February 2020
The story of the zipper. The story begins when Elias Howe, Jr. inventor of the sewing machine, who received a patent in 1851 for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” It didn’t go much further beyond that, though. Forty-four years later, inventor Whitcomb Judson marketed a “Clasp Locker” device similar to system described in the 1851 Howe patent. Being first to market, Whitcomb got credit for being the “inventor of the zipper.” However, his 1893 patent did not use the word zipper. Whitcomb launched the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture the new device. The clasp locker debuted at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and was met with little commercial success. It was a Swedish-born electrical engineer named Gideon Sundback whose work helped make the zipper the hit it is today. Originally hired to work for the Universal Fastener Company, his design skills led to a position as head designer at Universal. He improved the far from perfect “Judson C-curity Fastener.” By December of 1913, he came up with what would become the modern zipper. The popular “zipper” name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company, which decided to use Sundback’s fastener on a new type of rubber boots or galoshes. Boots and tobacco pouches with a zippered closure were the two chief uses of the zipper during its early years. It took 20 more years to convince the fashion industry to seriously promote the novel closure on garments. In the 1930s, a sales campaign began for children’s clothing featuring zippers. The campaign advocated zippers as a way to promote self-reliance in young children as the devices made it possible for them to dress in self-help clothing. A landmark moment happened in 1937 when the zipper beat the button in the “Battle of the Fly.” French fashion designers raved over the use of zippers in men’s trousers and Esquire magazine declared the zipper the “Newest Tailoring Idea for Men. The next big boost for the zipper came when devices that open on both ends arrived, such as on jackets. Today the zipper is everywhere and is used in clothing, luggage, leather goods and countless other objects. Thousands of zipper miles are produced daily to meet the needs of consumers.
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