Who Invented the Zipper?

John | 09 - 08 - 2020
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Whitcomb Judson, an American machine salesman, inventor, and mechanical engineer is most noted for his invention of the common zipper. Judson was born in Chicago, Illinois, and served in the Union Army in 1861 at Oneida, Illinois. Judson received 30 patents over a 16-year career for his innovations on the pneumatic street railway system. He also holds 6 patents for motor mechanism suspended beneath the rail-car. He founded the Judson Pneumatic Street Railway.

History of Zippers

Like many other inventions, the zipper is also the result of various enhancements, ideas, and outcomes of several inventors. It was initially started with Elias Howe who invented the sewing machine. He received a patent in 1851 for ‘automatic, continuous clothing closure’. His idea was to connect two edges of cloth with small metal clasps. The clasps would be connected with the help of a strip of wool. When the wool is pulled, it would drag the strips along and separate them from each other working as an ‘open and close’ between the clothes.

Due to the success of the sewing machine, Elias did not market this invention. Later in 1890, Max Wolff from Moscow invented a type of zipper in the shape of spiral but due to inadequate technology, the zipper didn’t appear on the market.

1. Who Is Not Associated with the Zipper?
  • A. Weisenthal
  • B. Whitcomb L. Judson
  • C. Elias Howe
  • D. Gideon Sundback

The Invention of the Zipper

It was later in 1893, Whitcomb Judson invented and marketed the zipper which was originally called a clasp locker. It was originally used as a fastener for high boots and shoes. The patent mentioned that zipper could be used wherever it was desirable to connect two flexible parts. Possible uses were gloves, mail bags, corsets, etc. The metal clasp locker was invented in 1891 which was a complicated hook and eye fastener with arrangements of hooks and eyes run by a guide for opening and closing the item. The first slide fastener patent was applied in November 1891. However, it was almost rejected as several types of shoe fasteners were already patented. He submitted a second improvised patent of the same item which was later approved. Judson joined with Colonel Lewis Walker and launched Universal Fastener Company to manufacture this new zipper. Clasp Locker was then shown at Chicago’s World’s Fair but had very little commercial success due to high price and unreliability.

Where Did Zipper Originate? Look at These Patents

  • 25-Nov-1851 Improvement in Fastening for Garments
  • 29-Aug-1893 Shoe Fastening
  • 29-Aug-1893 Clasp Locker or Unlocker for Shoes
  • 31-Mar-1896 Fastening for Shoes
  • 31-Mar-1896 Clasp-locker for shoes
  • 29-Apr-1913 Separable-fastener (Gideon Sundback)
  • 20-Mar-1917 Separable-fastener (Gideon Sundback)
  • 22-Dec-1936 Slider

Who Is Commonly Associated with His Work in the Development of Zipper?

Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-American electrical engineer is known for making several advances in the development of the zipper between 1906 and 1914. He enhanced the work of other engineers Whitcomb L. Judson, Max Wolff, and Elias Howe. Sundback is known for improving the Kudson C-curity Fastener.

The Universal Fastener Company was recognized as the “Fastener Manufacturing and Machine company” that hired Gideon Sundback in 1906. He was the head designer who in 1913 designed the modern zipper. He increased the number of teeth per length and made teeth on both sides. He also invented the manufacturing machine that made the new device and it was called separable fastener. Zippers were originally used for closing boots and tobacco pouches. It took a while for zippers to be considered as a fashion substitute for buttons.

Today, there are many different types of zippers available in different forms, styles, and materials. Thanks to the ideas and inventions without which, it would have been difficult to put the clothes in place and zip up the jeans!

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