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Gustaf Erik Pasch

Safety matches

The Swedish chemist and inventor Gustav Erik Pasch, invented the safety match in 1844, but it was not a big hit until the brothers Lundström in Jönköping developed it.

Swedish professor of chemistry, Gustaf Erik Pasch (1788-1862) invented the safety match in 1844. He was born in Norrköping and was studying medicine when he met the famous chemist, Jöns Jacob Berzelius. Pasch abandoned medicine and took up chemistry instead, under Berzelius’ guidance.

Sweden´s oldest match factory

In 1841, Pasch became joint owner in J.S. Bagge & Co.’s chemical factory for tinderboxes in Stockholm. The company had been established in 1836 and was the first match factory in Sweden. Here various types of matches were manufactured, modelled on foreign designs, along with Eau de Cologne, varnish and razor strops.

Red phosphorus

At the beginning of the 19th century, many countries experimented with a wide variety of lighting devices, mainly matches containing white phosphorus, which was poisonous. While he was at Bagge, Pasch came up with his ingenious idea of separating the phosphorus from the match head and applying it in a non-poisonous and less inflammable form (red phosphorus) on a special striking surface. Pasch took out a patent on his invention and, in October 1844, the first matches were made, but they were not a success. The matches were too expensive and the striking surface aged too quickly. Bagges factory was closed down in 1848 and the safety match was forgotten. The patent expired.

Jönköping, the match city

In 1845, two brothers, Johan Edvard and Carl Frans Lundström started the production of phosphorus matches in Jönköping. Three years later, they built Jönköping’s first match factory.

It was Johan Edvard Lundström, known as the father of industrial match production, who improved Pasch’s invention and was granted a patent for it. He presented the safety match as an innovation at the Paris Exhibition in 1855. The matches were in a specially designed sliding box with striking surfaces on the long sides of the box. The safety match was awarded a silver medal and people became interested in it.

The safety match conquers the world

The breakthrough for the safety match finally came when the young mechanic, Alexander Lagerman, was employed in 1870. He had constructed the first automatic match machine as early as 1864 and, during the following decades, he developed it until mechanisation was complete. This meant that the safety match became a high quality mass product at a low price.