Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Zipper History

Pull me — see what happens.

Time for some general background info.

A zipper consists of two strips of fabric tape, each permanently attached to one of the two flaps that it joins together.

Each zipper has from tens to hundreds of metal or plastic teeth.

The slider, the part that gets pulled by hand, rides up and down the two sets of teeth.

Inside the slider is a Y-shaped channel that pushes the opposing set of teeth together (forward) or pulls them apart (reverse).

Friction of the slider against the teeth produces that characteristic buzzing sound. (And it may be where the name zipper came from.)

Some zippers have slides on both ends, which allows for varying the size and position of the opening.

Elias Howe, the American inventor of the first practical sewing machine, developed an early zipper-like device he called an Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure, which he patented in 1851, but it was never commercialized.

In 1891 (or possibly 1893), Whitcomb Judson patented a similar Clasp Locker, for fastening shoes, and marketed it through his Universal Fastener company.

Both his and Howe's designs used hooks and eyes rather than the now-familiar teeth.

Today's design, based on interlocking teeth, was invented in 1913 by one of Judson's employees, the Swedish scientist Gideon Sundback.

It was originally called the Hookless Fastener, though patented in 1917 as the Separable Fastener.

The B. F. Goodrich Company coined the name Zipper in 1923, and used it in tobacco pouches and on boots.

It wasn't until the 1920s that the zipper was first used in clothing, specifically for men's trousers and in clothes for children.

And here we are.