Matches have been known since the year 1781, but the earliest types were generally inconvenient and inexpensive.
Matches have been known since the year 1781, but the earliest types were generally inconvenient and inexpensive. Too often they were made of poisonous materials or gave off poisonous gases. Today's matches are easy to use, work well under most conditions and are cheap and safe to use where reasonable safety is practiced. Caution in use and storage of matches can prevent many serious fires. The commonest varieties of matches are strike-anywhere matches and safety matches.
Strike-anywhere matches are made of wood splints, treated against after-glow and parafinned for better burning. The head is made of two parts, the white tip or eye, and the red, blue or black bulbous bade. The eye is made of a phosphorous compound which ignites at a relatively low temperature created by friction from striking it. The fire ignites the base which cannot ignite itself. It provides heat sufficient to light the paraffin coating and subsequently the wood.
Safety matches packed in books or boxes divide the ignition materials between the match head and package. Thus they cannot light except by friction with a special striking surface. The head is a potash compound while the striking surface is made of red phosphorus and sand.