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Mar 18, 2008

The Zipper

Did you know...
Elias Howe,the man who invented the sewing machine received a patent in 1851 for an 'Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.' But Elias did not pursue marketing his clothing closure and as a result, Howe missed his chance to
become the recognized 'Father of the Zipper.'

Some forty-four years later, Mr. Whitcomb Judson marketed a 'Clasp Locker' a device similar to the 1851 Howe patent. Being first to market gave Whitcomb the credit of being the "Inventor of the Zipper", However, his 1893 patent did not use the word zipper.
Mr. Whitcomb Judson, of Chicago, called it a 'Clasp Locker' and it was a complicated
hook-and-eye shoe fastener.
Together with businessman Colonel Lewis Walker, Whitcomb launched the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture the new device. The clasp locker had its' public debut at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and met with little commercial success.

Later the Swedish-born Gideon Sundback, an electrical engineer, was hired to work for the Universal Fastener Company. His good design skills and a marriage to the plant-manager's daughter, Elvira Aronson, led Sundback to the position of head designer at Universal.
He was responsible for improving the far from perfect 'Judson C-curity Fastener.
He busied himself at the design table after the death of his wife, and by
December of 1913, he had designed the modern zipper.

He increased the number of fastening elements from four per inch to ten or
eleven, had two facing-rows of teeth that pulled into a single piece by a slider, and
increased the opening for the teeth guided by the slider. The patent for the 'Separable Fastener' was issued in 1917. Sundback also created the manufacturing machine for the new zipper. The 'S-L' (or scrapless machine) took a special Y-shaped wire and cut scoops from it, then punched the scoop dimple and nib, and clamped each scoop on a cloth tape to produce a continuous zipper chain. Within the first year of operation, Sundback's zipper-making machinery was producing a few hundred feet of fastener per day.
The popular 'zipper' name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company, when they decided to use Gideon's fastener on a new type of rubber boots or galoshes and renamed the device the zipper, the name that lasted. Boots and tobacco pouches with a zippered closure were the two chief uses of the zipper during its early years. It took twenty more years to convince the fashion industry to seriously promote the novel closure on garments. It was first used on children's clothing.

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