History and Story Behind Inventions: Zipper

About the story behind the invention of the zipper, history and biography of inventor Whitcomb L. Judson.


INVENTOR: Whitcomb L. Judson, U.S.

YEAR: 1893

HOW INVENTED: It was a time of lacing boots and fastening high button shoes. To remove the tedium, to speed things up, Judson was inspired to invent 2 thin metal chains that could be fastened together by pulling a slider up between them. He patented this "clasp locker or unlocker for shoes."

Judson formed the Automatic Hook and Eye Company in Meadville, Pa., in association with a friend, a promoter named Col. Lewis Walker, who thought the crude hookless fastener should not be limited to shoes but should be used to replace all buttons, eyes, hooks. In 1896, together, they put it out as the Universal Fastener. The response was poor. Judson then developed a more simplified fastener, the C-Curity which sold for 35 cent in 1910, for use not on shoes but on men's trouser flies and women's skirts. C-Curity was In-C-Cure.

Finally, Gideon Sunback, an inventive Westinghouse engineer who lived in Hoboken, N.J., joined Judson and Walker. By 1913, Sunback had invented an improved "separable fastener," one with more versatility, and 2 improvements later the Hookless No. 2 showed its 1st profit when the U.S. military ordered a great quantity of them.

And by what magic did yesterday's hookless fastener become transformed into today's zipper? An anonymous executive of the B. F. Goodrich Co., experimenting with the hookless device, was impressed and praised it as quite a "zipper." The name zipper was immediately adopted and registered, and now we are all C-Cure.

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