The Early Days of Zippers

Fasteners have already come a long way ever since the early bone splinters or horn or bone pins. Various devices were crafted later that were made more efficient. These fasteners included buckles, safety pins, laces, and buttons. The buttons with buttonholes, despite remaining as an important practical means of closure even to this day, had their own share of difficulties. Zippers were originally conceived as a replacement for the annoying 19th century practice of buttoning up to 40 small buttons on every shoe of that time.

The sewing machine’s inventor, Elias Howe, developed what he referred to as the automatic continuous clothing closure in 1851. It was made up of a series of clasps joined by a sliding upon ribs or connecting cord running. In spite of the potential of this clever breakthrough, the invention never made it to the market.

Whitcomb L. Judson, another inventor, conceived of the idea of a slide fastener he patented in 1893. The mechanism of Judson was an arrangement of eyes and hooks with slide clasp that will connect them. After Judson showcased the new clasp lockers during Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, he acquired financial backing from Lewis Walker, and in 1894, the two of them founded the Universal Fastener Company.

The very first zippers were not really that much improvement from the simpler buttons, and the innovations came little by little over the next 10 years. Judson came up with a zipper that would completely part similar to the zippers found on the modern-day jackets. He also discovered it was better to have the directly clamped on the cloth tape that can be sewn into the garment instead of having the teeth themselves sewn to the garment.

The zippers remained prone to sticking and popping open and sticking until the late 1906, when Otto Frederick Gideon Sundback became part of Judson’s company that was named Automatic Hook and Eye Company back then. His 1913 patent for Plako is considered to mark the start of the modern zipper. His “Hookless Number One,” which is a device where jaws clamped down on the beads, was immediately replaced by “Hookless Number Two” that was almost the same as modern zippers. Cup-shaped and nested teeth made up the best zipper to date, and a special machine that can stamp out the metal in a single process made it more feasible to market the new fastener.

The very first zippers were introduced to be used in World War I as fasteners for the money belts, life-vests, and flying suits of the soldiers. Due to war shortages, Sundback came up with a new machine that used only around 40% of the metal that the older machines required.

After a rather slow start, it was not long before the sales of zipper soared to greater height. In 1917, there were 24,000 zippers sold and in 1934, the figures rose to 60 million. These days, zippers can be produced and sold in billions with ease and used for everything from sleeping bags to blue jeans. Now that you know a bit about zippers, it is time for you to buy zippers by the yard.

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