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 two domestic manufacturers left: Diamond Brands (the only boxed wooden matchstick manufacturer is part of Jarden Home Brands, a division of Jarden Corporation) and D. D. Bean. Atlas produces basically all of the small business matchbooks. D. D. Bean, still dominates the resale/vending market. Canada's great producer, Eddy Match, also disappeared. There are no manufacturers left in Canada.