In 1827, English Chemist John Walker stumbled upon a mixture of chemicals that could ignite on any surface once it had dried. However, the invention did not prove lucrative to Walker, who never secured a patent on his product and only managed modest sales of his flammable “Congreves.”
Three years later, Charles Sauria developed white phosphorus matches. While effective, the fumes were poisonous, and gave users an ailment known as “phossy jaw.” It wasn’t until 1910 that Diamond Match Company patented the first non-poisonous match. At the public request of President William Howard Taft, the company relinquished its patent a year later and surrendered its monopoly on safe matches.