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Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match

box of parlor matches

It is now and has been for a long time America’s leading producer of matches, producing some twelve billion a year. But do you know why Diamond matches are called that?

In 1853, Edward Tatnall opened a small sulfur match factory along Wilmington, DE’s Brandywine Creek. The sulfur match of that era was incredibly unstable and would often ignite with the slightest friction, causing lots of fires. A young Englishman by the name of Henry C. Courtney working for Tatnall saw a new business opportunity in the sulfur match flaw. On his own time, Courtney developed a safer match—the parlor, or cracking—match, a friction match that contained little or no sulfur and ignited more predictably than a sulfur match.

Tatnall apparently wasn’t convinced of the marketability of Courtney’s new match. In 1860, William H. Swift joined Tatnall’s firm to provide clerical and financial services. Though Swift saw potential in Courtney’s innovations, Tatnall felt he had spent enough on the match business and turned the business over to Courtney and Swift for a mere $1,400 ($50,000 in today’s dollars)!

Out from under Tatnall’s control, the pair went into production with the new match formula in 1861. Swift & Courtney called their product Diamond State Parlor Matches, after a popular nickname for Delaware. Their market timing couldn’t have been more fortunate: the Civil War caused a match shortage, as high grade foreign matches could not be imported. Demand far exceeded production.

swift & courtney match tin and closeup of their diamond state parlor match logo

This situation led Swift & Courtney to merge in 1870 with a company in New Haven, CT whose manufacturing plant had more modern production capabilities. This company, A Beecher & Sons, became the Swift and Courtney and Beecher Company of New Haven, CT in 1875. In 1880 the company became part of the Diamond Match Company. When Henry C. Courtney died in 1886, his fortune was worth $1,500,000 (over $47 million today).

So. Diamond matches. Named for the Diamond State.

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