The History of Zippers

H/T Back Then History.

Early Contributions

What would modern clothing be without them? Zippers are everywhere – but we rarely think about where they came from. Several inventors contributed to the creation of the zipper. In 1851, Elias Howe, Jr., the inventor of the sewing machine, filed a patent for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure,” but he didn’t pursue the invention much beyond securing his patent. Then in 1893, inventor Whitcomb Judson marketed a “Clasp Locker,” which he debuted at the Chicago World Fair that same year. Judson’s fastener was not originally intended for use in clothing; instead, it was designed to be used in shoes. Judson partnered with Colonel Lewis Walker to create the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture his “Clasp Locker,” but it didn’t achieve much commercial success, in part due to design flaws.

The Modern Zipper

A Swedish-born electrical engineer named Gideon Sundback is the creator of the modern zipper. He worked for Judson’s Universal Fastener Company and improved upon the design by increasing the number of fastening elements; his fastener featured two facing rows of teeth that could be pulled into a single piece using a slider. (Sounds familiar, right?) Sundback’s “Separable Fastener” – the modern zipper we would recognize today – was created by 1913 and received a patent in 1917. Sundback also created the machine for manufacturing his new device.

What’s in a Name?

Zipper…the term seems to perfectly fit the object, but where did the name originally come from? The term “zipper” wasn’t coined by its inventor. Instead, the name “zipper” originated with the B. F. Goodrich Company, who used Sundback’s fastener on a new type of rubber boots. When they did so, they renamed Sundback’s “Separable Fastener” to “zipper” and the name stuck.

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Early Uses

Boots and tobacco pouches were two of the first items to incorporate zippers into their design. It took a lot longer for zippers to catch on in the clothing industry. Much of the contemporary public saw the zipper as somewhat morally dubious, since it made removing clothing very easy. Earlier versions had exhibited design flaws and functional problems, so many people were also skeptical of the zipper’s quality and functionality. However, the US Army was one of the first entities to embrace zippered clothing, and WWI soldiers’ gear and uniforms featured zippers.

Popularizing the Zipper

In 1934, the Prince of Wales gave zippers a boost when he started wearing pants with a zip fly. It wasn’t until 1937, when the zipper beat the button in what’s now referred to as the “Battle of the Fly,” that the fashion industry really began to embrace zippers in clothing. Around this time, French fashion designers began to rave over the use of zippers in men’s pants, further bolstering the device’s fashion cred. During the 1930s, zippers were even advertised as a way to promote children’s self-reliance (since the zippers allowed them to dress themselves more easily)! The zipper’s place in fashion was solidified even further when zippers that could open at both ends hit the market, allowing them to be used on jackets and coats. But it wasn’t until 1954 that Levi’s first introduced a special zippered version of its 501Z overalls, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that zippers showed up on Levi’s jeans. Today, of course, zippers are everywhere – on shoes, suitcases, clothing, and more!

What Does YKK Mean?

You may have seen the letters YKK stamped on the pull tab of your zipper and wondered what it means. YKK stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha (which translates as Yoshida Company Ltd.). The Japanese company was founded in 1934 by Tadao Yoshida. Today, the company manufactures over 1.5 billion zippers per year to meet modern demand! Most zippers today are made by the big three – YKK, KCC Zipper, and Tex Corp – or by one of the many Chinese zipper companies in the industry. Most zippers are manufactured in the Qiaotou region of China.

The History Of Raisins


I learned a lot of the history of raisins.

Raisins in Ancient times.  The word raisin is from the  Latin word racemus which means a cluster of grapes or berries.

History indicates that raisins were discovered for the first time by accident when they were found in the dried form on vines as early as 2000 BC. Wall paintings from ancient times show that dried fruits were consumed and used as decorations in the Mediterranean regions of Europe. Historians tell us the ancient Phoenicians and Armenians took the first steps in perfecting viticulture, the process of grape growing and selection.

Between 120-900 BC, the Phoenicians started colonial vineyards in the areas of Malaga and Valencia (Spain), and in Corinth (Greece). About this same time, the Armenians founded their vineyards in Persia (Turkey, Iran, Iraq). These bountiful growing areas had the perfect climate for making raisins and were also close to Greece and Rome, the first markets for raisins. Muscat raisins, oversized with seeds and a fruity full flavor, were the primary crop in Malaga and Valencia. Currants, tiny seedless, tangy raisins were planted in Corinth, Greece, where historians believe they got their name.

The Phoenicians and Armenians then began to trade raisins with the Greeks and the Romans who consumed them in large quantities. As the popularity of the raisins grew, so did their value. They were given as prizes in sporting events, used as barter to trade, and used as a cure for what ails you.  Ancient physicians prescribed raisins as potions that could cure everything from mushroom poisoning to old age. Emperor Augustus feasted on small birds stuffed with raisins. Even Hannibal had raisins in his troops’ rations when he crossed the Alps.

11th Century

For all their popularity, though, raisins were not exported to the rest of Europe. Shipping methods were too poor to maintain the quality of the raisins for long travel. All of that changed in the 11th century. Knights returning from the crusades brought raisins back to Europe with them. They had sampled the dried fruit during their travels through the Mediterranean and Persia. When the knights went home and began to crave raisins, a huge demand was created. Fortunately, packing and shipping techniques had improved enough for raisins to be sent all over Northern Europe.

14th-16th Century

By the middle of the 14th century, currants and raisins were an important part of English cuisine. In 1374, prices in England skyrocketed to two pence and three farthings per pounds, which was very expensive at that time.

After a period of time, viticulture spread to France and Germany. Even the English tried to grow currants in the 16th century – but realized their climate was too cold for drying raisins.

Grapes and raisins had become an important part of European cuisine by the time European nations started to colonize the Americas. In Spain, where viticulture had been perfected, grapes were being used to make products such as dry table wine, sweet dessert wines and Muscat raisins. It was only natural that when the conquistadors colonized Mexico, wine and raisins were soon to follow.

18th Century –The Birth of California Raisin Country

Spain’s Queen Isabella sent missionaries to Mexico to teach natives about religion. While they were preaching and teaching, missionaries also passed on their knowledge of viticulture. They used grapes for sacramental wines and also grew Muscat grapes for raisins.

By the 18th century, the Franciscan fathers had settled as far north as present-day Sonoma, California. But, when Spain turned power over to the colonial government of Mexico in 1834, the mission system began its decline. Viticulture – and its strong influence on California agriculture – was one of the mission’s enduring legacies.

1851 – A marketable muscat for raisins, the Egyptian Muscat, was grown near San Diego. Since the area didn’t have sufficient water supply, farmers moved to the San Joaquin (wah keen) Valley which has a mild climate and extensive irrigation system perfect for the art of viticulture.

1873 – Legend says California’s first raisin crop was grown by nature, not farmers. A massive heat wave hit the valley before harvest, and most of the grapes dried on the vine before farmers could pick them.

1876 – English immigrant William Thompson grew a seedless grape variety that was thin-skinned, seedless, sweet and tasty.

Late 1800s – Armenians descended from the first founders of vineyards in Persia began settling in the San Joaquin Valley. The area now supplies raisins for nearly half the world, making it the largest producer anywhere.

Today, of  approximately 172,000 acres of raisin grapes are grown in California. Read full report here:  



Advertising History of the California Raisins

  Origin: In 1984 the California Dancing Raisin was introduced by the California Raisin Industry marketing staff to increase awareness and demand for California raisins. Television: The cost to develop the first animated and tested 30-second commercial was $300,000. It used singer and musician Buddy Miles as the vocalist for…

The History of Pillows


A brief history of pillows.

They Were Originally Made of Stone

Pillows have been around since ancient times, but back then, they served a very different purpose. The earliest use of pillows occurred in Mesopotamia around 7,000 BC. These early pillows were made of stone and carved into a cradle shape – they were not designed for comfort. Instead, these stone pillows were used to elevate the head so that insects wouldn’t crawl into a sleeper’s mouth, nose, or ears! Because stone was expensive, the pillows were only used by the wealthy. Ancient Egyptians also used pillows, but for a different purpose. They believed the head was the seat of spiritual life and should therefore be cherished. Egyptian pillows were made of marble, ivory, ceramic, wood, or stone. In addition to elevating the head in life, Egyptians also placed pillows carved with images of the gods under the heads of their dead to keep bad spirits away. In ancient China, society was advanced enough to create soft textile pillows, but the Chinese believed that soft pillows were a luxury that would sap the body of energy. They preferred hard pillows made of porcelain or bamboo, and those who could afford such a luxury slept on pillows made of bronze or jade.

They Largely Disappeared with the Roman Empire

The ancient Greeks and Romans introduced the idea of the soft pillow. Citizens used pillows made of cloth that were filled with natural materials like cotton, reeds, or straw. The wealthy used pillows filled with soft down feathers. However, after the fall of the Roman Empire, soft pillows once again became a rarity as most people could not afford them. For anyone who could, they became a status symbol. During his reign, King Henry VII banned soft pillows for everyone except pregnant woman. By the 16th century, however, soft pillows had once again become more widespread. The stuffing had to be changed often, however, due to mold and vermin.

The Industrial Revolution Modernized the Pillow

The Industrial Revolution ushered in the biggest change for pillows. With the sudden surplus of affordable textiles available for purchase, nearly anyone could get their hands on a soft pillow to sleep on. People stuffed their pillows with whatever soft material was available. Often this was clean hay. Chicken feathers and – for those with money or the ability to hunt – goose down were also used. However, because the natural materials were still susceptible to mold and mildew, it was not uncommon for people to refresh the filling each season. During the Victorian era in England, decorative pillows for couches and chairs began to show up in homes for the first time, especially among the wealthy.

Pillow Options Have Continually Improved Since the 1960s

Pillows remained pretty much the same until the 1960s, when polyester filling was invented. Polyester filling was a new synthetic material that not only held its shape, but also lasted much longer than natural filling because mold and mildew were less of a concern. It quickly became a common choice that remains popular today. Like polyester filling, down filling is also still used today. New materials such as foam pellets, cooling gels, and NASA’s memory foam are also extremely popular. For the eco-conscious sleeper, environmentally friendly pillow fills like buckwheat and dried lavender pods are available. Pillows also come in different shapes and thicknesses to support your neck while you sleep. No matter what type of pillow you choose, today’s options are certainly a far cry from the stone pillows available in Mesopotamia!