April 29th Zipper Day

Where would we be without the zipper today.  We take it for granted, as though it has always been available to us but honestly, it’s a relatively new invention.

The first prototype zipper was made by Elias Howe in 1851. It didn’t work.  Next came Whitcomb Judson in 1893 who was already a successful inventor having created the Pneumatic Street Railway.  He went into business with Colonel Lewis Walker and formed the Universal Fastner Company, developing his “Clasp Locker” which debut came at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.  The only real problem was, it still didn’t work.

In 1901, the company was reorganized in New Jersey where it continued to try and make a workable product.  They hired a Swedish-American electrical engineer, Gideon Sundback who, after a marriage into the family, became the head designer.  He eventually moved the company to Pennsylvania and renamed it “Talon Inc.”.  It took until 1913 for Sundback to actually perfect the modern-day zipper.  Complicating it, he began to fight with Talon Inc. and moved the project to Canada to avoid legal complications in the US.  Over the years, this has made many believe that the zipper was a Canadian invention… it was not.  The Canadian company, “Lightning Fastner Company”, began to produce and distribute the “Zipper” Sundback had invented.

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While the new “zipper” caught on with companies requiring a fast closing device it did not break into the everyday market until B.F. Goodrich included the zipper on a pair of rubber boots for the consumer in 1923.  This was followed by Schott NYC who began using the zipper on leather jackets in 1925.  Since then, the zipper has become a part of everyday life.  Who knew such a simple product could have such a complicated beginning!

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How to celebrate:  Learn to appreciate your zipper, numerous men spent the vast majority of their lives trying to make it work!  Buy a pair of button fly pants so you can learn just how valuable the zipper actually is.  Find an interesting place to put a zipper, be different, use your imagination!