Did you know that today Tuesday, April 28, 2009 is National Zipper Day? I had no idea there was such a holiday until I recently read an article in the newspaper that pointed out that few people have any real appreciation for the lowly zipper which keeps their clothes fastened together. It's history records a slow birth and many years of rejection, but the zipper eventually found its way into everything from pencil cases to space suits to countless "fly" jokes.
One of the first zippers was actually invented by Elias Howe in 1851, but did not reach the market as Howe was preoccupied with the sewing machine that he had patented in 1846. Whitcomb L. Judson who loved making many different kinds of gadgets came up with a slide fastener for a friend who had back problems and could not tie his shoes. In August 29, 1893 he patented his new "clasp locker"These clasp lockers were used by the apparel industry by 1905 but were not consider practical.
The design actually used today which is based on interlocking teeth, was invented by an employee if Whitcomb Judson's, Swedish born Gideon Sundback in 1913 he patented the "hookless fastener". Later improvements were made in 1917 that became known as the "Separable Fastener."One of the first customers was the U.S.Army as it used the zippers on clothing and gear for the troops of World War I.
In 1925, B.F. Goodrich decided to market galoshes with Sundback's fasteners and the product became very popular, because these new galoshes could be fastened with a single zip of the hand. A Goodrich executive is said to have slid the fastener up and down and exclaimed "Zip 'er up," echoing the sound made by the clever device, hence the fasteners came to be called "zippers."
In the 1930's a sales campaign was started featuring zippers in children's clothing praising zippers for promoting self-reliance in young children by making it possible for them to dress themselves in the self-help clothing. The zipper beat out the button in 1937 in the "Battle of the Fly" when French fashion designers raved over zippers in men's trousers. The zipper was declared the "Newest Tailoring Idea for Men" and among it's virtues was that it would exclude "The Possibility of Unintentional and Embarrassing Disarray." Obviously, the new zippered trouser owner had not yet discovered the experience of forgetting to zip-up!
The next time you zip-up perhaps you will have a little more appreciation for this very useful invention that is so much taken for granted.