When Were Matches Invented? [Who, Where & How]

Have you ever been on a camping trip and wished you had matches to light up a bonfire or start a campfire? If so, then you know that matches can make your trip much more enjoyable. But when were matches invented? How did they manage to create the first match?

Matches have been around for a long time. The first matches were invented in ancient China around the 6th century. Modern matches were invented by French chemist Jean Chance in 1805. He created a match that ignited when struck against a special surface coated with potassium chlorate.

Let me take you through a short history of matches, from the invention of matches to their use as a fire starter, to the development of safety matches. Then we’ll talk about modern-day matches and how they are made.

Do you know when was fire extinguisher invented? Let’s find out

When Were Matches Invented?

when were matches invented and why

The first invention of matches dates back to China from the 6th century. Ancient Chinese used wooden sticks dipped in sulfur and other flammable materials. 

This is how they were able to make fire without using a flint or tinderbox.

In the 13th century, the Chinese used paper sticks to ignite fires, while Europeans started using wooden splints dipped in sulfur, antimony sulfide, and potassium chlorate.

The first modern matches were invented in 1805 by Jean Chance, a chemist from Paris. 

He created wooden sticks soaked in phosphorus that could be used to light candles and lighters.

These matches weren’t very popular at first because they didn’t catch fire easily, so they weren’t useful for lighting cigars and pipes.

The first friction matches used a piece of wood coated with sulfur and tipped with phosphorus. 

These could only be used once before they had to be thrown away as they burn very quickly and easily catch fire again if left to cool down.

Matches are still made from the same ingredients today but modern matches are struck against a special strip of sandpaper that has been glued to the side of the matchbox.

When Were Waterproof Matches Invented?

Waterproof Matches were Invented in 1934 by J.B. Arpin, a Canadian chemist who was working on the creation of a waterproof match that could be used in wet conditions.

The matches have been developed to be able to ignite even when they are completely submerged in water and can be used up to 12 times before they need to be replaced.

The matches are made using potassium chlorate, potassium perchlorate, and titanium powder as well as magnesium and aluminum powders. 

They are all mixed together to create a paste-like substance.

Stick Matches

Stick matches are a primitive form of fire-lighting that was invented in Ancient China in the 6th century. 

They were used to light candles and incense, but they can also be used to light fires.

The stick match consists of a wooden stem with a tip at one end that is coated in sulfur-rich material. 

The other end has a cord attached, which is used to pull the match out of its container when it’s lit. 

Friction match

Friction matches were invented in 1816 by François Derosne, a French chemist. 

The first friction match was made from white phosphorus and worked by rubbing two sticks together.

The match consisted of two pieces of wood, one coated in phosphorus and the other coated in sulfur. 

When the two pieces were rubbed together, they would create enough heat to ignite the phosphorus coating and produce fire.

Strike Anywhere Matches

Strike Anywhere Matches are the most reliable way to start a fire in any weather.

They can be lit with a bit of friction of basically anything, including our hands, so they’re great for backpackers and campers who don’t want to risk getting their matches wet.

If you’ve ever tried lighting a match in the rain, you know how frustrating it can be. 

Not only is it difficult to get enough friction, but you also run the risk of getting all wet if you do manage to light one!

Safety Matches

Safety Matches were developed by Arthur Albright in 1851

These matches were a huge improvement over the old method of lighting candles and other combustible materials by hand.

Safety Matches are designed with a striking surface on one side, which is covered in an abrasive material that helps ignite the match’s tip when struck against it. 

The other side of the safety match has a phosphorus coating. 

This phosphorus coating catches fire when the match is struck to the striking surface, and then it can be used to ignite flammable materials such as paper or wood.

Who Invented Matches?

The modern version of matches was invented in 1805 by French chemist Jean Chance and he’s credited as a person who invented matches.

Before then, there were only two types of matches: those made from a mixture of sulfur and potassium chlorate, and ones that used phosphorus.

The first type was hazardous since they could explode unexpectedly and burn you, or even start a fire if they fell into the right place.

The second type of match was better because it didn’t have those risks, but it took a long time to light the match.

Chance’s invention was a different kind of match—one that had a small amount of sulfur and potassium chlorate mixed with powdered glass. 

When you struck this match against something hard, it would light immediately instead of taking several seconds as other kinds did.

Why Were Matches Invented?

Many people are wondering why were matches invented? The invention of matches was a huge leap forward in fire-lighting technology.

Before the invention of matches, people used a variety of methods to start fires: flint and steel, glass tubes filled with chemicals, burning fluff from the cotton tree, and more.

But all these methods were difficult and required skill. 

Matches made it possible for anyone to easily light a fire—no more working out how to create sparks with flint or gathering fluff from trees. You just had to strike a match against its box and ignite it.

What are matches made of?

What are matches made of

Matches are made of potassium chlorate, mixed with sulfur, fillers, and glass powder.

The head of the match is made of potassium chlorate, which is highly flammable and catches fire easily when exposed to heat or friction. 

This is mixed with sulfur, fillers, and glass powder. 

The side of the box contains red phosphorus, binder, and powdered glass. Red phosphorus ignites at a temperature below 900 degrees Fahrenheit (500 Celsius).

The match head is ignited when you strike it on a rough surface. The friction generates enough heat to ignite the match head. 

Once the match head is ignited, it continues to burn until all of its fuel is used up or it gets blown out by wind or water.

The side doesn’t burn as well as the head because it doesn’t have sulfur in it as the head does. 

The phosphorus on the sideburns very fast, but not very hot compared to sulfur in the head.

What wood are matches made of?

The majority of matches are made of aspen and poplar wood. 

The match heads are dipped in a potassium nitrate solution, which is then dried and cut into sticks.

The sticks are then inserted into a cardboard box or paper wrapper, which is folded over the head of the match.

Aspen and poplar wood are both hardwoods that have relatively few knots and are easy to work with. They also do not warp easily when exposed to moisture.

How Do Matches Work?

There’s a simple explanation of how matches work. 

Matches are made from three basic materials: a wooden matchstick, a chemical match head, and a sulfur-containing substance.

The sulfur-containing substance is in the form of a small stick that is impregnated with red phosphorus and wrapped in paper.

When you strike a match against the powdered glass on the matchbox, you create friction. 

The heat from this friction converts the red phosphorus into white phosphorus

White phosphorus is extremely volatile and reacts with oxygen in the air, causing it to ignite.

The reaction between red phosphorus and oxygen produces an extremely bright flame that will burn for as long as there is fuel available to it.

Facts About Matches

Matches are one of the most common household items. They’re also one of the simplest and most useful tools to have around. Here are 5 interesting facts about matches:

  1. Matches are made from a mixture of sulfur, potassium chlorate, and antimony sulfide.
  1. A single match can burn for about 15 seconds.
  1. The first strike-anywhere matches were invented in 1805 by Jean Chancel in France, but they didn’t come into widespread use until the 1880s.
  1. The first safety matches were invented in 1826 by John Walker, who also founded the Diamond Match Company in 1857. They were called “safety” matches because they would not ignite accidentally when dropped on a hard surface like wooden floors or stone stoves.
  1. Today’s safety matches require a striker to ignite them. Safety matches used to be self-lighting until 1916 when a U.S. law required that all matches be treated with an oxidizing agent that would ignite when struck against any rough surface, even if it was wet or oily.

History of Matches

Match history is a subject that fascinates the curious mind. Here are some facts about matches history:

  • Invented in ancient China, matches were originally made from natural materials such as bamboo and wood. These were used to ignite fire by creating friction between two materials.
  • The first modern matches were invented in 1805 by Jean Chancel in France. However, these matches were dangerous to use because they had to be ignited using a separate source of flames such as a candle or matchbox.
  • In 1827 safety matches were invented by John Walker, a Scottish chemist. These are much safer to use because they have a chemical coating on the tip which ignites when struck against any surface.

Ancient Chinese matches

Ancient Chinese matches were invented in 577 AD. These matches consisted of little sticks of pinewood impregnated with sulfur.

The sulfur was taken from a mineral called brimstone, which is the same thing we call sulfur today.

The matchstick itself was about 3 cm long and about 2mm thick. 

The sulfur would be dipped into a mixture of mercuric sulfide and potassium chlorate, which would make it burn when you struck it against something like a piece of bamboo or porcelain.


Now let’s see what readers usually ask about when were matches invented.

What was used before matches were invented?

Before matches were invented, people used splinters soaked in resin or sulfur. They would light one end of the splinter and use it to light the fire.

Are matches toxic?

Matches are generally not toxic, but they are made from a chemical called white phosphorus, which can cause an allergic reaction when it’s inhaled or ingested.

Was the lighter invented before the match?

No, the lighter wasn’t invented before the match. While the first match was invented in the 6th century, the first lighter wasn’t invented until 1823.

What is the red tip of a match made of?

The red tip of a match is made of potassium chlorate and red phosphorus

Do matches ever expire?

No, matches don’t have an expiration date. The matches will remain as long as you keep them properly stored and in a dry place.


In conclusion, thanks to the invention of matches and the discovery of friction-based ignition, we no longer need to rely on unreliable sources for starting fires. 

Since 1805, when were matches invented, matches have indeed become a part of everyday life for many people, and there’s no sign that this trend will slow down anytime soon.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

I’d also be appreciative to hear any more myths you’ve heard about matches that I wasn’t able to address. 

So, feel free to leave a comment in the Comments section.