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Zipper Day

April 29th is the date of Zipper Day because the design for the zipper was patented on the date in 1913. There were a few inventors who had a hand in creating the zipper in the decades that preceded this patent, and it took a number of years for the zipper to catch on, before and after the patent. The first to craft a fastener similar to a zipper was Elias Howe, Jr. Best known for being the first to patent the sewing machine, Howe received a patent for an "Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure" in 1851, but didn't pursue his zipper-like invention much beyond this.

In 1893, Whitcomb Judson of Chicago patented a similar item that he called a "clasp locker." Because he was the first to market such an item, he is often known as being the inventor of the zipper, even though the name "zipper" wasn't used for his fastener. The clasp locker debuted at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and the following year Judson and Colonel Lewis Walker started the Universal Fastener Company in order to manufacture it.

Improvements continued to be made over the next decade. In 1906, the company hired Gideon Sunback. He became the head designer and worked to improve the fastener. After his wife died in 1911, he honed in on making a new design, and came up with the "separable fastener." It was first patented on April 29, 1913. Another patent with the same name came in 1917. Hookless and metallic, one of the fastener's improvements from previous ones was that the number of fastening elements on it increased from four to about ten or eleven per inch.

The Universal Fastener Company was reincorporated as the Hookless Fastener Company in 1917. That same year, as Americans prepared to enter into World War I, the fasteners were put on money belts, which became popular with U.S. sailors, who didn't have pockets in their uniforms. The following year, the Navy ordered 10,000 flying suits with the fasteners.

The name "zipper" was coined by the B.F. Goodrich Company in 1923, when they put Sundback's fastener on a new line of rubber boots. The word "zip," which means to "move rapidly," had been used by the American public since the mid-nineteenth century, and is likely where the new name came from. In these early years of zippers, they were primarily used on boots and on tobacco pouches. Following an ad campaign in the 1930s, which took the angle that zippers would help children be self-reliant in dressing themselves, zippers became more common in children's clothing. By 1937, zippers had been boosted by French fashion designers and Esquire magazine. Zippers became even more prominent when they began being used on items that open at both ends, such as jackets. Today we honor the history of the zipper and the convenience that it offers us in our daily lives.

How to Observe

Celebrate the day by wearing and using as many zippers as possible! Wear jackets, pants, and boots that have them, and use bags, money pouches, tents, and sleeping bags. You could buy some of these items as well. You could also read a book about the history of zippers or sew a zipper into something.

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