How it all began

History of matches

The ability to make fire has always been vital to human life. Yet it was not until the 19th century that the cheap safety match was invented, and a flame could thereby be produced quickly and easily by anyone. The Swedish match became known around the world for its high quality and safety.

The phosphorus match was invented in 1831, and production of these matches then began in a number of countries in Europe. These matches ignited when struck against any surface, and they immediately became very popular. The problem was that they ignited far too easily and caused a lot of near-accidents. Moreover, the yellow phosphorus was toxic, which meant that over time, phosphorus matches were banned in one country after another.

In 1836, the first match factory in Sweden opened. This was situated in Stockholm and was called J.S. Bagge & Co.

In 1844, Swedish professor Gustav Erik Pasch patented a new invention. To prevent the matches from igniting against any surface or self igniting, he ”split” the chemicals in the match head and placed the phosphorus on a separate striking surface on the outside of the box. The phrase; ”Safety matches - Strike against the box only” was born.

In 1845, brothers Johan Edvard and Carl Frans Lundström began manufacturing phosphorus matches in Jönköping.

In 1852, the Lundström brothers took Pasch’s patent, improved it and made a trial batch of matches. The new matches were not launched in public until three years later, at the World Exhibition in Paris 1855. This product aroused great interest and won its first medal. The new safety matches were manufactured in parallel with phosphorus matches in the 1850s and 1860s. Production was still craftsman like.

In 1864, the first automatic match producing machine was designed. The man responsible for this was engineer Alexander Lagerman. In the 1860s and 1870s, technology developed quickly, and match production switched from handicraft to large-scale industry. Jönköping matches went on sale all over the world, and they were soon as world-famous as any product could ever be. Of course, this success simply invited imitation. People thought that if matches could be manufactured in Jönköping, they could probably be manufactured elsewhere too. The result? New match factories. 

All in all, there have been at least 155 of these factories in Sweden! Most of them disappeared as quickly as they appeared, but there were enough of them, and gradually the competition became very strong, both on the Swedish and on the export markets.

In 1903, there was a merger of six factories to form a single company: Jönköpings och Vulcans Tändsticksfabriks Aktiebolag, with its headquarters in Jönköping. In 1913, eight competing factories formed another match group, AB Förenade Svenska Tändsticksfabriker, under the leadership of Ivar Kreuger. Over time, more and more companies joined forces with one of these groups, and the Swedish match industry was made up of two large blocks.

In 1917, the two groups merged and formed STAB – Svenska Tändsticks Aktiebolaget – with Ivar Kreuger. Having a single major group made it easier for the company to resolve the problems in the industry. The biggest problem of all was the shortage of raw materials that prevailed during the First World War. To ensure that the group was better prepared in the future, it took over a number of industries linked with the manufacture of matches: paper industries, forest and timber industries, print works, mechanical industries, etc. This formed the foundation for the STAB group.

In 1932, in connection with what was known as the Kreuger crash, STAB suffered a major liquidity crisis, and it was not until the 1940s that the group recovered.

In 1980 – after 63 years – Svenska Tändsticks AB changed its name to Swedish Match AB.

In 1992, Swedish Match introduced a unique, environmentally friendly product; THE SULPHUR-FREE MATCH. Harmful heavy metals has been removed, and the group’s matches consists mostly of renewable raw materials.

Today Swedish Match’s Swedish operations are run in Vetlanda and Tidaholm. The Vetlanda factory manufactures semi-finished products such as printed outerboxes (skillets) and matchsticks without heads (splints). The Tidaholm factory completes production of finished boxes of matches which are exported to around 80 countries all over the world.