from a day of hunting in the Jura Mountains of France, Swiss mountaineer
George de Mestral found his wool pants covered with burrs. No matter how
he tried to remove them, the burrs wouldn't budge. Fascinated by their
"staying power," George inspected them under a magnifying glass and found
that each had hundreds of tiny hooks, all of which were engaged in the
loops of the fabric of his pants. He realized then that some type of fastener
could be made based on the same principle. Others thought his idea was
absurd. That was in 1948.
With the help of a
textile weaver in France, George designed his new "locking tape" from
cotton. But mass-production was a problem. By accident, George discovered
that nylon, when sewn under infrared light, formed indestructible hooks.
He made a special machine to duplicate the hooks and loops using nylon
and named this new product Velcro's from the French words Velours and
Crochet. By the end of the 1950's, textile looms were churning out 60
million yards of Velcro per year. Today, George's hook-and-loop creation
is more popular than ever.
Speaking of fasteners...
the zipper, is a simple machine. But can you imagine not being able to
figure it out? When it first became available to the public, it came with
directions on how to use it. (Hopefully, they weren't as complicated as
those that come with new bicycles!)
It took a while for
the zipper to catch on. It was first patented by mechanical engineer Whitcomb
Judson of Chicago on August 29, 1893, and introduced at that city's World
Fair the same year. An estimated 20 million people attended the fair,
but the invention didn't appeal to very many. Judson sold only 20 of his
new invention. Who bought them? The U.S. Postal Service for closing
up their mailbags.
A new model was introduced
in 1913 by Gideon Sundback, whose first order came from the U.S. Army
to use in clothing and equipment for soldiers fighting World War I. Its
only drawback was that it rusted clothing during washing but, still, the
"hookless fastener" never caught on.
Then came B.F. Goodrich.
In 1923, he saw a use for what everyone else thought was a useless contraption.
He ordered 150,000 of Sundback's invention for his new product ?rubber
galoshes. He liked their z-z-z-ip sound so much that he coined the word
zipper. Catchy, don't you think? Soon, the zipper could be found in households