Inventors · Uncategorized

November 27, 1826–Strike Matches are Invented

Think of your favorite smell. Close your eyes. No…really. For just a moment, close your eyes and imagine your favorite scent filling up the room. It might be hot chocolate. It might be sugar cookies. A pretty perfume. The smell of woods and pine. Your mom’s apple pie.

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Ok. Now that you’re done, open your eyes so you can read my post. I love most of the smells I mentioned above. I love the smell of a good chlorinated swimming pool, I love the salty smell of the beach, I love chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. I have some fall scented oils and candles that I LOVE. I wait all year long to bring them out. MMMM.

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I have to say, however, my favorite smell in the whole world is an odd one. I discovered my love of this smell as a teenager. And it’s a good thing I’m not mischievous, because I could have caused a LOT of problems with the love of this particular smell.

My favorite smell is the smell of matches. The strike. The flare up of the flame. Especially when you blow out the match… There is just this ….scent. Mmmm.

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I have lighters in my home. All kinds of them. Yet, I always have boxes of matches around, too. I have to. My good friends and neighbors, Shigles and JenniSlice, discovered this firsthand as I proceeded to go through half a box when it was time for fireworks. My family was striking matches to light fireworks. I was striking them to smell them. I think I was almost as entertaining as the fireworks… ok. Maybe not. But I was entertained anyway.

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Shigles tries to share topics with me all the time. I usually give a polite “Oh. I have my topic. Thank you!” response. Because I do have my topics and I’m very passionate about them. However, I heard him out today and when he told me today was the official invention of strike matches, it was a done deal. Thank you sir Shigles!

On November 27, 1826, a fellow named John Walker “accidentally” discovered strike matches–or “friction matches”–in his quest to find an easy way to create fire.

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John Walker was born in England in 1871. According to an article by, John grew up and took up an apprenticeship with a local surgeon only to find out he couldn’t hack the disgusting side of surgery. He ended up going into chemistry and became a druggist. –link to stocktonteeside article

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Reading in the article, I learned that as a chemist, Walker wanted to find a better way to create fire and “to transmit the flame to a slow-burning substance like wood.” You see, there were already a few known substances that could create fire quickly through explosion, but getting that fire to the firewood–for example–was where they were stuck.

“While Walker was preparing a lighting mixture on one occasion, a match which had been dipped in it took fire by an accidental friction upon the hearth.”–link to stoctonteeside article

After his discovery, Walker decided this was the method he’d been looking for and continued to make his “friction matches.” “He named the matches “Congreves” in honour of the inventor and rocket pioneer, Sir William Congreve.”

A Congreve matchbox john walker and the match stockton
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A gentleman named Isaac Holden also came up with the idea of strike matches a few years later, but neither Walker nor Holden wanted patent the idea. Lo and behold, another came along and copied it. “Samuel Jones of London copied his idea and launched his own “Lucifers” in 1829, an exact copy of Walkers “Friction Lights.” link to stocktonteeside article

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Because John Walker didn’t patent his invention, he didn’t receive credit for it until after his death. I have to say–on behalf of match lovers all over the world–thank you John Walker, for your quiet, understated invention.





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