In 1827, the English people did not produce fire by friction, like the residents of all civilized countries. A chemical method was used, though time-consuming and awkward. A person would carry a bottle of sulfuric acid in his/her pocket and dip into it a splinter oiled with a special compound in case of necessity. There was another method: a flask containing acid was crushed by tongs. Pharmacist John Walker, resident of Stockton, relieved his contemporaries of this inconvenience and taught them to produce fire by friction again. It all happened by pure chance as usual. Walker planned to create an easily flammable mixture for hunting rifle cartridges. He was stirring the mixture with a splinter and decided to clean it removing the substance that had stuck to it. Walker started rubbing it against the stone floor, and the splinter suddenly inflamed. The effect seemed funny to the pharmacist, and he began showing the trick to his friends. Finally somebody suggested the idea to the pharmacist, and Walker earned his first shillings on April 7, 1827. Local lawyer by name of Hickson became the world’s first buyer of matches. All 100 matches that he purchased were made of cardboard. Later, Walker launched the production of wooden matches. The inventor modified the box as well. It was made of cardboard and had a strip of sulfur paper on one of the sides. However, the life of Walker’s matches was not long, as phosphorus ones were soon invented. At first they were toxic, but then Swedish or safety matches were launched. Since that time, matches presented as New Year gift have symbolized wishes of warmth in Sweden and adjoining countries. As for Spain and Greece, matches symbolize threat there, probably because they can start a fire.
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