The truth is that there are several inventors who had a hand in the development of zippers, the amazingly simple contraption that are now being used a lot today.
The very first patent for this device made use of an automatic and continuous clothing closure that Elias Howe submitted in 1851. Howe was also the same person behind the invention of the sewing machine. While the sewing machine was a big success, Howe was not able to follow up on the patent for his clothing closure.
Whitcomb L. Judson launched and marketed a “clasp locker” in 1893 which was the same with Howe’s patent. He also had originally developed the clasp locker as a way of helping a friend who had a hard time tying his shoes because he was suffering from a bad back. Since Judson marketed his product, he was able to receive the credit for the invention of the zipper even though his patent didn’t contain the actual term “zipper” in its name.
Judson then worked with a few people such as Lewis Walker, Harry Earle, and the businessman named Colonel Lewis Walker. He then opened the Universal Fastener Company in order to produce his brand new product. Judson’s invention functioned as a slide fastener that was meant to be opened and closed using just one hand. It was primarily used for pouches, mailbags, and shoes. The very first versions were the clumsy hook-and-eye fasteners that met little success during their 1893 debut at the Chicago World’s Fair.
During the early years in 1900s, the company employed a Swedish scientist and electrical engineer by the name of Gideon Sundback. Sundback took inspiration from the design of Judson and change the fastener model to have interlocking teeth made from metal with more fasteners per inch with two rows of teeth facing each other with a slider that connect them.
Sundback was able to patent this model in year 1913 as the hookless fastener and developed yet another patent when 1917 came for the separable fastener. He also came up with a manufacturing machine to create his new fastener.
It was actually the B.F. Goodrich Company that coined the actual name zipper when they used the fastener that Sundback developed for a special line of galoshes and rubber boots. The company called the fastener a “zipper” since it can be closed in a single “zip” and since then, this name stuck.
Even though it took a few years before the zipper was added in luggage and clothing, the US Army became among the first customers that used the fastener of Sundback for all their clothing and gear that the troops used during World War I.
Now that you know how zippers came to existence, here are a few fun facts you would love to know about these fasteners:
- It took around 20 years before zippers were added in the clothing for children and trousers for men in the 1930s.
- The name Zippo lighter came from the zipper since the inventor liked the sound of the word “zipper.”
- YKK initials on the zipper are the acronym that stand for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushibibaisha, the world’s largest zipper manufacturer.