For hundreds of years, buttons were the main fasteners for clothing and shoes. Boots were often fastened by a row of tiny buttons. Pants were fastened with buttons, which attached to a shirt, jacket, or suspenders to keep the pants up. Even stockings required buttons or ties to stay up. The zipper made getting dressed much simpler.
- In 1851, Elias Howe applied for a patent for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” He didn’t get very far with his invention because he was too busy working on another invention – the sewing machine.
- Whitcomb Judson introduced his “Clasp Locker” at the 1983 World Fair in Chicago. He started a business, The Universal Fastener Company, to market the product, but he wasn’t very successful.
- In 1913, Gideon Sundback, an employee at Jodson’s company, invented a “Separable Fastener,” which resembled modern zippers. He designed the product for fastening shoes.
- F. Goodrich – the company known for its tires – created a rubber shoe that included Sundback’s fasteners. Goodrich renamed the fasteners “zippers” and the name stuck.
- Originally, zippers were used to fasten boots and tobacco pouches. It wasn’t until the 1930s that zippers were used on clothing.
- Patent: an official document giving credit to an inventor for his or her invention and limiting others’ use of it
- Tobacco pouch: a small purse that held loose tobacco
Questions and Answers
Question: Are zippers used just for clothes today?
Answer: Look around your house for zippers. You’ll find them on backpacks, purses, sleeping bags, pencil bags, clothing, and even plastic bags.
Watch a video about Whitcomb Judson and learn how zippers are made today.