Come on, Baby, Light My Fire


When I think of the old West, I’ve always pictured a weathered cowboy gathering wood and lighting a campfire on a cold winter’s night. Fire has been critical to survival since cave man days. But getting heat when you needed it back then was not ever easy. It usually involved rubbing sticks together or striking flint.


I remember the big box of Diamond kitchen safety matches that my mom kept above the cookstove and the matchbook my dad kept in his shirt pocket in the days when he smoked.


So I started wondering when exactly matches came along.


matchstickI recently read that Charles Sauria of France created the first matchstick in 1830. It was made of white phosphorous and it had an extremely strong odor when lit. They were highly poisonous and posed a serious health risk to factory workers. They caused a necrosis in the bones of the face, especially the jaw. It was referred to as “phossy” jaw. The picture I saw was pretty gross.


(Phosphorous scraped from a single pack of matches produced enough poison to commit suicide or murder, both of which were commonly reported.)


**A side note: The first matches were called Lucifers.**


In 1855, John Lundstrom came up with a red phosphorous match. It didn’t cause the phossy jaw disease but was extremely costly to make, therefore impractical.


diamond matches2In America, there were many match manufacturers. The largest by far was the Diamond Match Company owned by O.C. Barber. It came along in 1881, the same year the gunfight at the OK Corral took place. Their safety matches were well received and embraced by cowboys and regular folk alike. The company was recognized by President Howard Taft. He convinced them to forfeit their patent for humanitarian reasons and they were given an award for eliminating serious occupational health disease.


old matchbookJoshua Pusey invented the matchbook in 1889 and the Diamond Match Company immediately bought the patent. That made Diamond the largest producer. By 1900, they produced 85% of matches in the U.S.


Finally, Diamond created the first non-poisonous match in 1910 and gave us the matches we’re familiar with. I’m mighty glad they did. Striking matches was a dangerous business.



30,000 match heads can form a 10-15 ft. column of flame

A satchel holding only 60,000 match heads can create enough firepower to propel a 6 lb. bowling ball 1500 ft.


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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

27 thoughts on “Come on, Baby, Light My Fire”

  1. What an interesting post, Linda. Thank you for sharing. I am sure glad they changed matches when they did.

  2. Good Morning Alisa…….My gosh, girl, you were up early! I’m glad you enjoyed my post. A small thing like matches really made a difference in our lives.

    Wishing you a glorious day!

  3. Good Morning, Melanie………I’m glad you found my post interesting. Matches are such a small thing but, man, they made such a difference. I can’t imagine how difficult it would’ve been to try to make fire with rubbing sticks together or striking flint on a piece of metal. I’d never have gotten that down.

    Hope your day is very special!

  4. Good Morning, Kathleen………Yep, no phossy jaw for us, thank the dear Lord! It would’ve been horrible. But it was common back then. I’m really glad they improved the process for making matches. I’m constantly learning things I didn’t know. Makes life interesting.

    Big hugs back to you, my friend!!

  5. WOW, Linda. I knew matches were called “Lucifers” but I had no idea the full story behind the name. Guess my mother was right…don’t play with matches.

  6. Linda, this is really interesting. I had no idea that they could be that poisonous. Hmm. Seems like I can use that in one my stories.

    BTW: Recently I was with a group of boy scouts and someone forgot the electronic lighter to light the fire. I brought out my trusty box of “Lucifers” and the kids went wild. Would you believe that some of them had never lit a real match?

  7. Hi Janine……..Thanks for stopping by to read my post. Glad you found it interesting. Sometimes the smallest things can make us stop and think.

    Have a great day!

  8. Hi Susan P………Thanks for reading my blog. Who knew a little thing like matches could cause such horrible health problems. Yep, it’s pretty crazy.

    Enjoy your day!

  9. Hi Renee……..I’m glad you found my match blog interesting. I really enjoy finding little unknown facts and sharing them. Makes life more fun to keep learning.

    Wishing you lots of success with your books!

  10. Hi Margaret………That is so strange to me that kids don’t know at one time matches were sometimes all that stood between a man and death. Or that you couldn’t cook your food without them. And I cannot imagine how difficult it was starting a fire by rubbing sticks together. Good heavens. I wouldn’t have made it. Yes, I’m sure you can use some of this in one of your stories. I’ll be looking for it appear.

    Take care and God bless!

  11. Your mentioning your Dad having matches in his shirt pocket reminded me of a story. In the 1960’s we had a packer who smoked, (most did, then), and carried his matches in his shirt pocket. One day the boys were having fun and throwing around a football. Well, it hit Ken in the shirt pocket and set his shirt on fire!! Fortunately they were next to a creek and got water on him. Next time he’ll catch the ball. Nowadays when a non-smoker heads out to do an overnight trip we make sure he has matches. Never worried about it when everybody smoked. Everybody had matches.

    Good history lesson. Thanks.

  12. Always enjoy your posts. We have a box of Diamond matches that we use with our wood stove. I had no idea that early matches we so dangerous. They are still a hazard, but that is usually due to carelessness not a poisonous ingredient.
    We have never smoked, but always have waterproof matches and a flint with us when we travel, either on a hike or a road trip.

    Thanks for another enjoyable post.

  13. I just read Margaret Brownley’s comment. Sadly, I am not surprised. I have taken both Girl and Boy Scout troops out. I always made sure my troops knew how to survive and were capable of improvising when necessary. The very first outdoor skill we always taught them was how to start a fire – materials needed, how to find them, and a variety of ways to ignite it. I am amazed how totally incapable so many boys and girls as well as their leaders are. If they didn’t have an extension cord or battery, they are lost. Sad state of affairs.

  14. Linda, what a great post. I have never heard of ‘phossy jaw’–sounds icky just by the name of it. You always come up with the best topics for posts, and I always learn something.

  15. I’ve seen “Lucifers” in books before and never knew what they were until recently. I think I prefer that over the mundane “match.” Great post!

  16. Hi Mary J……..I’m glad I could tell you something you didn’t know. Loved the story about your dad and the unexpected fire. My gosh! I’m sure that really scared him and the boys too. Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Hi Miss Patricia B………I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Sounds like you intend to be prepared for anything. That’s great. So many people go hiking or camping or even go for a drive in winter without taking precautions for emergency situations. Often your life depends on being prepared. I agree about not only kids but grownups being unable to do anything without all the modern conveniences. It is very sad. We’ve lost something very important.

  18. Hi Cheryl Pierson………Thank you. I’m glad you got something from my “match” post. I try to find things that haven’t been blogged about but it’s getting really difficult. Seems nearly everything has been done. Still I try to keep my eyes and ears open for blog subjects.

  19. Hi Sandi J………Now you know. You can astound your friends. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about these.

    Hi Janie Mason………Yep, we tend to take a lot of things for granted, some of which can be lifesavers when we don’t have them.

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