Today on its home page, Google says “Happy Birthday” to Gideon Sundback, the innovator who perfected the zipper! The zipper had already been around for a long time, but it was clumsy to use and came undone easily. Mr. Sundback fixed the problems by coming up with a new and innovative design.
Gideon Sundback was born April 24, 1880 in Sweden. As a young man he made his way to the United States where he worked as an electrical engineer for the Universal Fastening Co. It was there that he designed the modern zipper in 1913. He fixed the problem of the zipper coming apart by adding more “teeth” per inch and putting a nib at the end of each tooth. Check out the zipper on your jeans – you can see the nibs. The nibs keep the teeth lined up with one another. He called his innovation the “Separable Fastener” and received a patent for it in 1917.
The name was changed to “zipper” much later by the B.F. Goodrich Company when it used the new “zipper” in rubber boots. Zipper is definitely easier to say. By 1937, the zipper beat out the button as the best way to fasten clothes, especially boy’s and men’s pants. Up until then pants were done up using buttons which took time and effort. Today, zippers are used to close countless things – pants, of course, jackets, wallets, school binders, and even tent flaps. I wonder how many zippers you will come across your day today!