In 1826, John Walker, an English chemist and druggist from Stockton on Tees, discovered through lucky accident that a stick coated with chemicals burst into flame when scraped across his hearth at home. He went on to invent the first friction match. Until the first half of the nineteenth century, the process by which fire was created was slow and laborious. Walker’s friction match revolutionized the production, application and the portability of fire. Walker sold his first “Friction Light” on the 12th April 1827 from his pharmacy in Stockton on Tees. Walker’s first friction matches were made of cardboard, but he soon began to use wooden splints cut by hand. Later he packaged the matches in a cardboard box equipped with a piece of sandpaper for striking. He was advised to patent his matches but chose not to and, as a result, Samuel Jones of London copied his idea and launched his own “Lucifer’s” in 1829, an exact copy of Walkers “Friction Lights”.
From the Darlington News & Press, December 27, 1923 we read where Elihu Muldrow, 93 years old, gives an interesting reminiscence of life in Darlington. In the article he discusses the Ebenezer Community (now Florence County) and mentions that just across Jefferies Creek lived Elias Windham. Windham, a prosperous farmer that today exist in an almost forgotten past. He had a “Yankee” visitor that called on his home with an idea that changed the old and primitive way of starting a fire. Elias, took hold of this knowledge and began “making and selling the first friction matches in Darlington County. As a large quantity of Sulfur was used in making them, they were called Lucifer Matches. Possibly the fumes of Sulfur from a lighting match suggested the idea of naming them for his Satanic Majesty.”
When Elias Windham was born on March 16, 1795, in Darlington, South Carolina, his father, Daniel, was 26 and his mother, Sarah, was 28. He married Sophia Stewart on July 3, 1816. They had five children in 10 years. He died in 1845.
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