MATCH: i. O. Eng. gemaecca, a cognate form of " make," meaning originally " fit '.' or " suitable "; a pair, or one of a pair of objects, persons or animals. As particularly applied to a husband and wife, and hence to a marriage, the word is especially used of two persons or things which correspond exactly to each other. The verb " to match " has also the meaning to " pit one against each other," and so is applied in sport to an arranged contest between individuals or sides.
2. O. Fr. mesche; apparently from a latinized form of Gr. fiua, mucus from the nose, applied to the nozzle of a lamp; primarily the wick which conveys oil or molten wax to the flame of a lamp or candle (this use is now obsolete), the word being then applied to various objects having the property of carrying fire. With early firearms a match, consisting of a cord of hemp or similar material treated with nitre and other substances so that it continued to smoulder after it had been ignited, was used for firing the charge, being either held in the gunner's hand or attached to the cock of the musket or arquebus and brought down by the action of the trigger on the powder priming (" matchlock ") ; and more or less similar preparations, made to burn more or less rapidly as required (" quick-match " and " slow-match "), are employed as fuses in blasting and demolition work in military operations. The word " match " was further used of a splint of wood, tipped with sulphur so that it would readily ignite, but it now most commonly means a slip of wood or other combustible material, having its end covered with a composition which takes fire when rubbed either on any rough surface or on another specially prepared composition.
The first attempt to make matches in the modern sense may probably be ascribed to Godfrey Haukwitz, who, in 1680, acting under the direction of Robert Boyle, who at that time had just discovered how to prepare phosphorus, employed small pieces of that element, ignited by friction, to light splints of wood dipped in sulphur. This device, however, did not come into extensive use owing to its danger and inconvenience and to the cost of the phosphorus, and till the beginning of the 19th century flint and steel with tinder-box and sulphur-tipped splints of wood " spunks " or matches were the common means of obtaining fire for domestic and other purposes. The sparks struck off by the percussion of flint and steel were made to fall among the tinder, which consisted of carbonized fragments of cotton and linen; the entire mass of the tinder was set into a glow, developing sufficient heat to ignite the sulphur with which the matches were tipped, and thereby the splints themselves were set on fire. In 1805 one Chancel, assistant to Professor L. J. Thenard of Paris, introduced an apparatus consisting of a small bottle containing asbestos, saturated with strong sulphuric acid, with splints or matches coated with sulphur, and tipped with a mixture of chlorate of potash and sugar. The matches so prepared, when brought into contact with the sulphuric acid in the bottle, ignited, and thus, by chemical action, fire was produced. In 1823 a decided impetus was given to the artificial production of fire by the introduction of the Dobereiner lamp, so called after its inventor, J. W. Dobereiner of Jena. The first really practical friction matches were made in England in 1827, by John Walker, a druggist of Stockton-on-Tees. These were known as " Congreves " after Sir William Congreve, the inventor of the Congreve rocket, and consisted of wooden splints or sticks of cardboard coated with sulphur and tipped with a mixture of sulphide of antimony, chlorate of potash and gum. With each box which was retailed at a shilling, there was supplied a folded piece of glass paper, the folds of which were to be tightly pressed together, while the match was drawn through between them. The same idea occurred to Sir Isaac Holden independently two and a half years later. The so-called " Prometheans," patented by S. Jones of London in 1830, consisted of a short roll of paper with a small quantity of a mixture of chlorate of potash and sugar at one end, a thin glass globule of strong sulphuric acid being attached at the same point. When the sulphuric acid was liberated by pinching the glass globule, it acted on the mixed chlorate and sugar, producing fire. The phosphorus frictionmatch of the present day was first introduced on a commercial scale in 1833. It appears to have been made almost simultaneously in several distinct centres. The name most prominently connected with the early stages of the invention is that of J. Preschel of Vienna, who in 1833 had a factory in operation for making phosphorus matches, fusees, and amadou slips tipped with igniting composition. At the same time also matches were being made by F. Moldenhauer in Darmstadt; and for a long series of years Austria and the South-German states were the principal centres of the new industry.
But the use of ordinary white or yellow phosphorus as a principal ingredient in the igniting mixture of matches was found to be accompanied with very serious disadvantages. It is a deadly poison, and its free dissemination has led to many accidental deaths, and to numerous cases of wilful murder and suicide. Workers also who are exposed to phosphoric vapours are subject to a peculiarly distressing disease which attacks the jaw, and ultimately produces necrosis of the jaw-bone (" phossy jaw "), though with scrupulous attention to ventilation and cleanliness much of the risk of the disease may be avoided. The most serious objections to the use of phosphorus, however, were overcome by the discovery of the modified form of that body known as red or amorphous phosphorus. That substance was utilized for the manufacture of the well-known " safety matches" by J. E. Lundstrom, of Jonkoping, Sweden, in 1852; its employment for this purpose had been patented eight years previously by another Swede, G. E. Pasch, who, however, regarded it as an oxide of phosphorus. Red phosphorus is in itself a perfectly innocuous substance, and no evil effects arise from freely working the compositions of which it fbrms an ingredient. The fact again that safety matches ignite only in exceptional circumstances on any other than the prepared surfaces which accompany the box which surfaces and not the matches themselves contain the phosphorus required for ignition makes them much less liable to cause accidental fires than other kinds.
The processes carried out in a match factory include preparing the splints, dipping them first in molten paraffin wax and then in the igniting composition, and filling the matches into boxes. All these operations are performed by complicated automatic machinery, in the development of which the Diamond Match Company of America has taken a leading part, with the minimum of manual intervention.
The chief element in the igniting mixture of ordinary or " strike anywhere " matches used to be common yellow phosphorus, combined with one or more other bodies which readily part with oxygen under the influence of heat. Chief among these latter substances is chlorate of potash, others being red lead, nitrate of lead, bichromate of potash and peroxide of manganese. But at the beginning of the 20th century many countries took steps to stop the use of yellow phosphorus owing to the danger to health attending its manipulation. In Swedeni matches made with it have been prohibited for home consumption, but not for export, since 1901. In 1905 and 1906 two conferences, attended by representatives of most of the governments of Europe, were held at Berne to consider the question of prohibiting yellow phosphorus, but no general agreement was reached owing to the objections entertained by Sweden, Norway, Spain and Portugal, and also Japan. Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland and Luxemburg, however, agreed to a convention whereby yellow phosphorus was prohibited as from 1912, and to this Great Britain expressed her adherence after the passing of the White Matches Prohibition Act 1908, which forbade the manufacture and importation of such matches from the 1st of January 1910; though to avoid hardship to retailers and others holding large stocks it permitted their sale for a year longer. Phosphorous sulphide (sesquisulphide of phosphorus) is one of the subM.nices widely employed as a substitute for yellow phosphorus in matches which will strike anywhere without the need of a specially prepared surface.
Safety matches contain no phosphorus in the heads; according to one formula that has been published the mixture with which they are tipped consists of chlorate of potash, 32 parts; bichromate of potash, 12; red lead, 32; sulphide of antimony, 24; while the ingredients of a suitable rubbing surface are eight parts of amorphous phosphorus to nine of sulphide of antimony. There is no doubt, however, that there is considerable diversity in the composition of the mixtures actually employed.
" Vestas " are matches in which short pieces of thin " wax taper " are used in place of wooden splints. Fusees or vesuvians consist of large oval heads fixed on a round splint. These heads consist of a porous mixture of charcoal, saltpetre, cascarilla or other scented bark, glass and gum, tipped with common igniting composition. When lighted they form a glowing mass, without flame.
It is calculated that in the principal European countries from six to ten matches are used for each inhabitant daily, and the world's annual output must reach a total which requires twelve or thirteen figures for its expression. In the United States the manufacture is under the control of the Diamond Match Company, formed in 1881; which company also has an important share in the industry in Great Britain, where it has established large works. Similarly the manufacture of safety matches in Sweden is largely controlled by one big combination. In France matches are a government monopoly, and are both dear in price and inferior in quality, as compared with other countries where the industry is left to private enterprise. The French government formerly leased the manufacture to a company (Societe generate des allumeltes chimiques), but since 1890 it has been undertaken directly by the state.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)