Elisa Howe, who invented the sewing machine received a patent in 1851 for an 'Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.' Perhaps it was the success of the sewing machine, which caused Elias not to pursue marketing his clothing closure. As a result, Howe missed his chance to become the recognized 'Father of the Zip.'
Forty-four years later, Mr. Whitcomb Judson (who also invented the 'Pneumatic street Railway)marketed a 'Clasp Locker' a device similar to the 1851 Howe patent. Being first to market gave Whitcomb the credit of being the 'Inventor of the Zipper', However, his 1893 patent did not use the word zipper. The Chicago inventor's 'Clasp Locker' was a complicated hook-and-eye shoe fastener. Together with businessman Colonel Lewis Walker, Whitcomb launched the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture the new device. The clasp locker had its public debut at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and met with little commercial success.
Gideon Sundback increased the number of fastening elements from four per inch to ten or eleven, had two facing-rows of teeth that pulled into a single piece by the slider, and increased the opening for the teeth guided by the slider. The patent for the 'Separable Fastener' was issued in 1917. Sundback also created the manufacturing machine for the new zipper. The 'S-L' or scrapless machine took a special Y-shaped wire and cut scoops from it, then punched the scoop dimple and nib, and clamped each scoop on a cloth tape to produce a continuous zipper chain. Within the first year of operation, Sundback's zipper-making machinery was producing a few hundred feet of fastener per day.
The popular 'zipper' name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company, when they decided to use Gideon's fastener on a new type of rubber boots or galoshes and renamed the device the zipper, the name that lasted. Boots and tobacco pouches with a zippered closure were the two chief uses of the zipper during its early years. It took twenty more years to convince the fashion...