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The first successful friction match was invented in 1826 by John Walker, an English chemist and druggist from Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham. He developed a keen interest in trying to find a means of obtaining fire easily. Several chemical mixtures were already known which would ignite by a sudden explosion, but it had not been found possible to transmit the flame to a slow-burning substance like wood. While Walker was preparing a lighting mixture on one occasion, a match which had been dipped in it took fire by an accidental friction upon the hearth. He at once appreciated the practical value of the discovery, and started making friction matches. They consisted of wooden splints or sticks of cardboard coated with sulfur and tipped with a mixture of sulfide of antimony, chlorate of potash, and gum. The treatment with sulfur helped the splints to catch fire, and the odor was improved by the addition of camphor. The price of a box of 50 matches was one shilling. With each box was supplied a piece of sandpaper, folded double, through which the match had to be drawn to ignite it. Walker named the matches "Congreves" in honour of the inventor and rocket pioneer, Sir William Congreve. He did not divulge the exact composition of his matches. Between 1827 and 1829, Walker made about 168 sales of his matches. It was however dangerous and flaming balls sometimes fell to the floor burning carpets and dresses, leading to their ban in France and Germany. Walker either refused or neglected to patent his invention.

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