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The zipper is a very common fastener used to secure all kinds of things, especially clothing. But the zipper wasn't always around. Before the zipper was invented, buttons were used in fastening clothes, and so were hooks and eyes that had to be fastened manually. When the zipper first came out, it was somewhat of an oddity; it wasn't widely accepted. But slowly, more and more people started noticing its convenient applications, and soon it could be seen everywhere. The zipper started off as a novelty, and because of its convenience, it is now a necessity.
The first zipper was invented by Whitcomb Judson. He devised it to do up boots, and got the device patented on August 29, 1893. He called it the "clasp locker". The clasp locker was much bulkier than the zipper we know today. It was a series of two rows of hooks and eyes that could be fastened by a "slider" (which was the most important part of Judson's invention). Another big difference from today's zipper is that after zipping up the fastener, the slider would detach right off the garment. Then to open the clasp locker, the slider would be re-attached at the top of the locked clasps, upside down, and then pulled down.
About a year after the patents were issued, a close friend of Whitcomb Judson, named Harry Earle, and a lawyer named Lewis Walker met up with Judson, and they formed the Universal Fastening Company. They weren't very successful. One of the main reasons was that the clasp locker didn't work very well. The fastener frequently jammed, and easily rusted. But in April of 1896, some Post Office Department representatives went to the company and inspected the Judson fastener on a mailbag and pronounced it satisfactory. Twenty mailbags equipped with the fasteners were ordered. That was one of the first orders Universal Fastening Company got, and it wasn't repeated. It's assumed that the mailbags were discarded due to faulty fasteners.
While Judson tried to improve his fastener, the company struggled to get customers. But soon they weren't so worried about trying to sell it, and more worried about finding useful applications for it. In early promotion, it was described as a "20th century device". Also "remarkable in its simplicity, rapidity, security, utility". The fastener would be shown applied to skirt plackets, gloves, corsets, boots, shoes, and leggings.
A little later in the decade, Judson came up with a new separable fastener, called the C-curity fastener, although its patent wasn't issued until 1905. After the patent was issued, the company brought it to market. Finally, after ten years, there was a fastener that could be manufactured and sold.
With the introduction of the C-curity, the fastener makers deepened their commitment to a market that they hardly imagined when they began: women's skirts and dresses. They were sure of their target at this time, and confident that they were on the right path. One advertisement, using three famous singers, past and present (at the time) went as follows:
In 1782 Mrs. Siddons was laced into her costume at the Drury Lane Theater.
In 1850 Jennie Lind depended on hooks and eyes at Castle Garden.
In 1901 Lillian Russell used Snaps at the Weber and Field's Music Hall.
A Pull and it's Done! No More Open Skirts. No old fashioned Hooks and Eyes or Fasteners. Your Skirt is Always Securely and Neatly Fastened. The C-curity Placket Fastener.
Now, advertising by the company wasn't only to get people to buy it, but also to get workers to sell the fastener door-to-door. The door-to-door sales strategy can be explained by noting that this was a product that required a personal approach to customers rather than "by selling through stores where clerks are oftentimes indifferent even to the point of discourtesy when the sale of an article needs personal instruction of its application and use."
In fact, with each fastener sold, an instruction booklet was included. This goes to show how strange and new it was for everyone:
To open, unhook and pull on waist band with both hands, as you would tear in two a piece of paper or cloth.
To close, take hold of the ring and pull up slide, holding garment below opening with other hand. Pull steady, don't jerk.
Important!!! If, in moving the slide, it tightens, push it back just a little; this will ease it. Don't pull hard if it
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Gideon Sundback, Whitcomb L. Judson, Zipper, Fastener, Button, Hook-and-eye closure, Placket, Hook, whitcomb judson, lewis walker, mailbags, department representatives, fastener, fastening, zipper, clasps, oddity, two rows, slider, fasteners, mailbag, garment, hooks, invention, post office department, patents, boots, convenience
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