Q. When was the friction match invented and what was it called?
A. Many encyclopaedias and other respected references wrongly state that it was not until 1827 that John Walker, a pharmacist in Stockton-on-Tees, invented the friction match. This appears in so many references that researchers blindly repeat this error without looking at the source material. John Walker kept records of his sales in ledgers, though he did not record every sale. The ledger for the period 19th November 1825 (1825-11-19) to 23rd September 1829 (1829-09-23) still exists today and an entry under Die Saturni April 7th 1827 (1827-04-07) records the sale: Mr Hixon No. 30th Sulphurata Hyper-Oxygenata Frict. 100 Tin case 2d. for 1 shilling and 2 pence. This may be the first recorded sale of friction matches but it was actually the thirtieth dispensing of his invention. It is known that "Dr Walker" and a new kind of match was being talked about in Stockton before this date. Analysing subsequent sales in the ledger shows that prior sales must have taken place during 1826 and proves that JOHN WALKER INVENTED THE FRICTION MATCH IN 1826. Incidentally, the second recorded sale of his invention occurred on 7th September 1827 (1827-09-07) where John Walker uses the term Friction Lights. Except for three entries during 1828 for Attrition Lights all other recorded sales are also for Friction Lights.
Q. Why is the word skillet used to describe pre-printed matchbox sleeves?
A. Phillumenists use skillet to describe a pre-printed, pre-cut, pre-scored, piece of cardboard intended to be formed into an outerbox of a matchbox. However, the match industry uses skillet in a more general sense to mean any pre-cut piece of veneer or card that is a part of a matchbox. Therefore skillet can mean a pre-cut piece of flat card or wooden veneer that is folded into the outerbox of a matchbox whether or not it has been printed or whether or not it will have a label affixed.
It is not possible to unfold a skillet, for as soon as a skillet has been folded it can never revert to being a skillet. Therefore there can be no such thing as a flattened skillet.
However, the match industry uses skillet in a more general sense to mean any pre-cut piece of veneer or card that is a part of matchbox. Therefore skillet can mean a pre-cut piece of flat card or wooden veneer that is folded into the outerbox (sleeve) of a matchbox whether or not it is printed with the design or will have a label affixed. Skillet can also mean the single flat cut piece of card or pieces (rim and bottom) of veneer or card that an innerbox (tray) is made from.
In The Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission Report on the Supply and Export of Matches and the Supply of Match-Making Machinery (1949-1952) published in 1953 defined skillet in the "Methods of Manufacture" section to be: "The flat piece of veneer, cut to size and scored for conversion into a box." Though some outerboxes were being made with pre-printed cardboard skillets at that time, they were commonly made from veneer. The same section includes: "Printing machinery is used for printing the surface of cardboard match boxes and the labels for wooden boxes …". Here and elsewhere in the report there is no apparent connection with the term skillet and a pre-printed, pre-cut, pre-scored, piece of cardboard. Nowadays the match industry - the English speaking part at least - does refer to these as skillets. It would be useful to know if they did so then.
Modern English dictionaries describe skillet to be a frying pan, a term more commonly used in North America rather than Great Britain. Older English dictionaries describe skillet as a small metal cooking pot with a long handle. The etymology of skillet in this sense is from skelet,( Middle English) from escuelete (Old French) the diminutive of escele (meaning plate) from scutella (Latin) the diminutive of scutra (meaning platter). So how did skillet become associated with pieces to make matchboxes? We have to realise that conventional dictionaries can often fail to define technical terms used in industry. In The Match Indusrty - Its Origin and Development by William Hepworth Dixon (1925) we see that skillet comes from squellette (French) meaning skeleton. No explanation is given as to how squellette in French came to be spelt skillet in English. The Swedish for skeleton is skellett. Do we find skillet or skellett in use in Sweden? Do we find squellet in use in France? In Technical Vocabulary for the Match Industry compiled by H A Anderfelt (1961) and published by The Swedish Match Company gives English, Swedish, German and French translations of words in use in the match industry. Tabulating some of the entries we see:
So no skellett in Swedish and no squellette in French. But we do find skillet in English and in Swedish though not in German or French. According to the Compact English Dictionary skillet has been used to describe small sheets of un-worked silver. It also references an 1888 source to be a scored thin sheet of wood that is made into a punnet. This is the most likely origin and perhaps it was Bryant & May's use of this term that caused its adoption by the Swedish Match Company.
As most "skillets" are printed in Sweden nowadays what term do they use in the factory: skillet? faner? askfaner?; something else?
If you know the term that is or was used in your country's match industry; or if you can add any further information please use the Forum with the heading Skillet.
Note: Explanations of words in bold can be found in the Glossary.
Q. Why do you use the YYYY-MM-DD date format on your site?
A. This is the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standard (ISO 8601:2004) for the numeric representation of dates and time. The UK tradition is to show dates in a DD/MM/YY format which differs from the US tradition of MM/DD/YY. This method means that a date shown as 01/02/03 can have as many as six different meaning throughout the world. For the UK 03/05/07 represents 3rd May 2007, whereas in the US it would represent March 5th, 2007. For non-native English speakers it may not be clear if 03/05/07 is a British or American format. Differentiation can be achieved by writing 03 May 2007 or May 3, 2007 but this relies on the translation of the name of the month.
The internet, and this web site serves an international community and it is fitting therefore that we use an international format for dates.