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A match is a simple and convenient means of producing fire under controlled circumstances and on demand. It consists of a short wooden or cardboard stick with a small head of inflammable chemicals and a striking surface.

The first match, the friction match, was invented by the English chemist John Walker in 1827. Early work had been done by Robert Boyle in the 1680s with phosphorus and sulfur, but his efforts had not produced useful results. Walker discovered a mixture of antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch could be ignited by striking it against any rough surface. Walker called the matches congreves, but the process was patented by Samuel Jones and the matches were sold as lucifers. The early matches had a number of problems - the flame was unsteady and the initial reaction was disconcertingly violent, additionally the odour produced by the burning match was unpleasant. Despite the problems the new matches were responsible for a marked increase in the number of smokers.

In 1831 the Frenchman Charles Sauria added white phosphorus to remove the smell. The new matches had to be kept in a airtight box but were popular. Unfortunately those involved in the manufacture of the new matches were afflicted with "phossy jaw" and other bone disorders, while there was enough white phosphorus in one pack to kill a person. There was a vociferous campaign to ban these matches once the dangers became known.

The safety match was invented in 1844 by the Swede Gustaf Erik Pasch and improved by Johan Edvard Lundström a decade later. The safety is due to the separation of the combustible ingredients between the match head and the special striking surface. Striking surface - powdered glass and red phosphorus. Match head - antimony trisulphide and potassium chlorate. The act of striking converts the red phosphorus to white by friction heat, the white phosphorus ignites and the ignition starts the combustion of the match head. The additional safety was the replacement of white phosphorus with red phosphorus. An American company developed a similar match using phosphorus sesquisulfide and patented it in 1910.

The development of a specialised matchbook with both matches and a striking surface did not occur until 1890 with the American Joshua Pusey.