Who invented the zipper?

Photo: About.com
Whitcomb Judson's 'Clasp Locker'

Whitcomb L. Judson, a Chicago mechanical engineer, loved machines and experimented with
many different kinds of gadgets. He invented a number of labor-saving items, including the zipper.
It came about because a friend with a stiff back could not do up his shoes. Judson designed
a slide fastener that could be opened or closed with one hand. In 1893 he patented a device
called the "clasp locker," which was the forerunner of the modern zipper. It had only two
problems: it didn't work and no one wanted to buy it. Judson displayed it at the 1893 Chicago
World's Fair. Although around 20 million people went to the fair, he sold only 20 of his
new hookless fasteners. The U.S. Postal Service bought them to put on their mailbags.

Undaunted, Judson founded the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture his new device.
One of the company's employees was Gideon Sundback, a Swedish immigrant who eventually
became head designer. Sundback made a number of improvements to Judson's original
design, and by 1913 he had designed the zipper as we know it today. A patent was issued in
1917 for Sundback's design. It was called the "separable fastener."

When B. F. Goodrich ordered a huge quantity of them for the rubber galoshes he was
manufacturing, he liked the "z-z-zip" sound they made and coined the name zipper.

At first, zippers were used mainly for boots and tobacco pouches. Almost 20 years later, in
the 1930s, the fashion industry began promoting zippers for children's clothes. In the famous
fashion "battle of the fly," the zipper beat the button hands down as French fashion
designers started putting zippers in men's trousers.

Today zippers are found everywhere, on clothes, luggage, handbags, jumpsuits, and
countless other products. In spite of competitive products such as snaps and Velcro,
it appears that the zipper is here to stay.

If you look closely at a zipper, you'll probably see the letters YKK stamped on the pull tab.
In 1934 a Japanese company called Yoshida Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha, which means Yoshida
Manufacturing Company, Limited, started manufacturing zippers. The company abbreviated its
name to YKK, which became its trademark and was stamped on its zippers. Today, the YKK
corporation has plants around the world. Its National Manufacturing Center in Macon, Georgia,
is the largest manufacturer of zippers in the world. Since the center produces well over 1.5
billion zippers a year, there's a good chance that your zipper will have YKK stamped on it.

From ... "What Makes Flamingos Pink?" by Bill McLain

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