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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Match holders, also known as matchsafes or vesta cases, date to the mid-19th century, when friction matches were first introduced. While useful to cigar smokers and homemakers, early friction matches, which were also called "vestas" and "Lucifers," almost did their job too well. They sometimes burst into flame in a user’s pocket.

Matchsafes kept these dangerous matches from rubbing together and combusting prematurely. The golden age of matchsafes was around 1870 until the 1930s, when matchbooks and cigarette lighters reduced the need for most match holders. At home, wall and tabletop matchsafes were used, primarily by women for domestic uses such as lighting a stove. Stove manufacturers often made cast-iron match holders, which were mounted to a wall in the kitchen to keep the matches handy. Other wall-mounted matchsafes were made of tin and featured lithographed advertisements for everything from soda pop to whiskey to sliced bread.

In the late 1800s, men carried matchsafes in their coat pockets. These accessories were often more ornately decorated than their pocket watches or their wives’ jewelry. Many were made of sterling silver, embossed or engraved with images of people smoking or abstract patterns resembling smoke. Others were made of gold and inlaid with enamel scenes or decorations: a few matchsafes were carved from antler or ivory.

By the turn of the century, it was becoming more permissible for women to smoke in public, so matchsafes designed for this expanding new market came to the fore. The New York jeweler Tiffany & Company sold sterling silver matchsafes accented with copper and brass and decorated in the Art Nouveau style. Gorham, Bristol, and Whiting are among the many American silver manufacturers that produced matchsafes, while Cartier and Fabergé exported their products from overseas.



"Antique Match Holders and Match Safes," Collectors Weekly, Online: https://www.collectorsweekly.com/tobacciana/match-holders

Pages in category "Matchsafe"

The following 3 pages are in this category, out of 3 total.