The need and use of fire has been known to man since the dawn of civilisation. Its presence, when controlled, remains a crucial aspect of our lives as much as it was back then. For several millennia, the knowledge and ability to create fire derived mostly primitive methods and techniques, mainly using friction or concentrating an intense heat in a fixed spot, as one would do with a shard of glass. The relative difficulty and complications of such methods often led to some source of fire being maintained constantly, but this was rarely possible in the case of nomads, soldiers, and all those moving from one area to another. For countless centuries man has struggled to find ways to generate fire speedily and with ease. Flints were among the first known resources employed to make a fire, when and where these were available. The discovery of gunpowder and its eventual adaptation for military use made it necessary to have immediate and regular access to fire. Wicks or Cords made from hemp, cambric and similar fibres dipped in chemicals such as ammonia were employed towards this purpose leading to two main varieties, slow and fast burning matches. These first matches were hence the ancestors of the ubiquitous wooden stick known in our age, and it is from them that the word itself originates, from the original old French "meche". As for the matches of our day, it appears that they share the same origins as gunpowder: China. The first known mention of thin wooden sticks with coated tips goes back as far as 577 AD, while accounts written in 1270 AD also make reference to this commodity being sold in markets at Hangzhou. It would take the Western world many more centuries before the first modern 'self-igniting' matches were discovered. The invention has been credited to Jean Chancel, in 1805. These early matches were dangerous and expensive however, leading to much experimentation over the next decades, and a variety of matches including types made with glass capsules or wax stems. In 1816, another Frenchman, Francois Derosne, came up with the first friction match while ten years later, an English chemist, John Walker, introduced the first successful matches of this type.
The next fifty years would see more developments and much experimentation with alternative chemicals or substances with the aim of reducing risks during manufacture as well as to customers, and reducing negative side effects such as smell, sputtering and primarily, self-ignition when undesired! This led to the invention of safety matches between the 1840s-50s, as well as the first matchboxes with a striker panel on the side/s. Early matchboxes were typically made from thin wood ply sheets and paper. The next 100 years would see both matches and matchboxes evolve considerably, beyond the staple basics. The first matchbooks or flip-tops were introduced in America in 1890. Matches have since been made in a large variety of sizes and different coloured stems or tips. Matchboxes too come in many shapes and formats. The same applies for the graphic designs on matchboxes, especially after the recognition of advertising or propaganda potential became noticed and implemented. The rich variety and often artistic element in such designs led to such products becoming widely collectable, and this aspect too was exploited by manufacturers' by issuing sets and serieses in a myriad of colourful themes. But the same way mankind's rapid advance in terms of technology through in the last two centuries brought about the birth and heyday of the match, it also brought its decline with the invention of gas lighters. During the 1970s lighters became readily available, cheap and disposable. Safer, more durable and reliable were all qualities that led to lighters becoming the preferred consumable. Despite the relative decline in demand, matches persist as a convenient commodity, both in domestic and rural environments, and are still readily present just about anywhere. Matches were first introduced to Malta by sailors, servicemen, and other travelling visitors. As more brands emerged and their availability spread across Europe and the world, they soon found themselves on the shelves of local shops. Among the efforts to rebuild Malta and its economy after the second world war, a local enterprise named the Modern Match Factory Marsa aka MMM was established in 1950. The initiative was successful but the aforementioned slow decline of the seventies persisted through the next decade and the factory closed its doors around the early 1990s. We have a vast collection of matchboxes, including local, imported & foreign / international examples. Kindly read more in the pages linked below.