You see them in the glass bowl near the door at your favorite restaurant or a stack in nearly every hotel lobby. It seems as though matchbooks have always been around, free for the taking. But that’s not the case.
Scroll through this slideshow to learn the history of the matchbook and to see 10 vintage matchbooks from around the world.
Before we go any further, there’s one word you should know: phillumeny, or the “hobby of collecting match-related items”. Phil is from the Greek word for loving, and lumen is Latin for light. Pretty striking, right?
The first matchbooks popped up in 1892, when Joshua Pusey, an American inventor, dipped the tips of cardboard into a solution of phosphorus and sulfur. He named them “sulphuretted peroxide strikables”—doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?
It’s fair to say that the matchbooks of today are a far cry from the “sulphuretted peroxide strikables” of the past. They are beloved items, drenched in nostalgia, and in many cases, the easiest way to bring a little piece of your travels home with you—they are pocket-size, after all.