Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by noah. noah Wonders, “What is the story behind zippers” Thanks for WONDERing with us, noah!
Have you ever given much thought to what life might be like without the humble zipper? For starters, your clothes would have a hard time staying put. In a stiff breeze, it’s handy to have a jacket that zips up. Blue jeans probably wouldn’t be as much fun to wear without zippers, either!
Have you ever been camping? If so, you know zippers play an important role there, too. Your suitcase or backpack might spill its contents everywhere if it wasn’t zipped shut. You might also get cold at night if your sleeping bag or tent didn’t zip up nice and tight.
The first methods used to keep clothes fastened were buttons. They worked well, for the most part. Still, clever inventors searched for even better ways to keep clothes closed.
The invention of the modern zipper was a long process that involved several people. The inventor of the sewing machine, Elias Howe, received a patent in 1851 for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” Although it was a good idea, he didn’t market it. After all, he was too busy promoting the sewing machine.
Over 40 years later, Whitcomb Judson improved upon Howe’s idea. He marketed his invention as a “Clasp Locker.” Judson designed it to be a fastener for shoes. To produce his new device, he started the Universal Fastener Company. The product debuted at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, but it didn’t have much success.
The modern zipper was eventually designed in 1913 by Gideon Sundback. He worked at the Universal Fastener Company in Hoboken, New Jersey. Sundback received a patent for his “Separable Fastener” in 1917.
Sundback’s design increased the number of fastening elements to 10 per inch. It included two rows of interlocking teeth that would latch together with the help of a slider. His design was the first fastener to resemble what we now know as a zipper.
But Sundback didn’t come up with the name! The name “zipper” was first used by the B.F. Goodrich Company. They included Sundback’s device on a new type of rubber boots. They called the device a “zipper,” and as you can see, the name stuck.
Early on, zippers were mainly used on boots and pouches that held tobacco. It would be another 20 years before the fashion industry began to use zippers on clothing. One of the first uses on closing was replacing the buttons on pants with zippers.
Today, zippers remain very popular. They can be found on all sorts of clothing and other products. Take a look around you. How many zippers do you see and use on a daily basis?
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.10, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2