When the Tierra del Fuegans, a primitive
people living at the inhospitable southern tip of South America,
were first discovered by Magellan, they had no knowledge of how
to start a fire. They simply waited for nature to produce it
and then kept it going for years on end. Israelites in the Old
Testament were rubbing sticks together to produce fire. The Ancient
Greeks gave us the word match, which is derived from
their word for dried fungus, which was saved up to ignite by
flint-produced sparks. Archimedes started fires by directing
the suns rays through a lens. Things developed rather slowly
for the next 2000 years. By the early 1800s, the tinderbox was
a standard ingredient in every home and in every gentlemans
pocket. But, as Charles Dickens once complained, with luck, one
might get a fire from a tinderbox in half an hour on a damp day!
Although, worldwide, the 20th century industry was dominated by Swedish Match (and still is), here at home the domestic industry was ruled by the Big Five: Diamond, Universal, Lion, Ohio, and D.D. Bean. The American match industry reached its height in the 1940s and 1950s. It should be noted, however, that D.D. Bean's "slice" of the industry was basically vending machine matches. Its matchbooks were cheap, poorly made and usually disdained by collectors. In 1991, though, after acquiring new four-color printing equipment, D.D. Bean introduced the first Joe Camel cigarette set. Since then, their covers have been slick and attractive.
By the mid-1980s, the industry had collapsed here in the United States. It just couldn't compete any longer with foreign imports. Most of the previous great companies were gone. Today, with so many states and local communities passing anti-smoking legislation, match manufacturing is an endangered industry. There are only four North American manufacturers left, all in the US: Diamond Brands (the only boxed wooden matchstick manufacturer is part of Jarden Home Brands, a division of Jarden Corporation), Atlantis Match Co. , Atlas Match Corp, and D. D. Bean. Both Atlantis and Atlas produce basically all of the small business matchbooks. D. D. Bean, still dominates the resale/vending market. Atlas and Atlantis also sell boxed matchsticks which are made in Japan (and are marked thus), with just the boxes being printed in the US.