After a slow birth and years of rejection, the zipper found its way into everything from plastic pencil cases to sophisticated space suits and countless “fly” jokes. The zippers used today are little different then the Gideon Sundback design of 1917.
An early device similar to the zipper, “an Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure”, was patented by Elias Howe in 1851, but did not reach the market. Howe was preoccupied with the sewing machine that he had patented in 1846. Whitcomb L. Judson loved machines and experimented with many different kinds of gadgets. He invented a number of labor-saving items, including the zipper. It came about because of a friend’s stiff back. The problem was that his friend could not do up his shoes. Judson came up with a slide fastener that could be opened or closed with one hand. This was an absolutely new idea, and in a few weeks Judson had a working model. On August 29, 1893, he patented his new “clasp locker.” The earliest “clasp locker” fasteners were being used in the apparel industry by 1905, but they weren’t considered practical.
The design used today, based on interlocking teeth, was invented by an employee of Whitcomb Judson’s, Swedish born scientist Gideon Sundback. In 1913 and patented as the “Hookless Fastener” and after more improvements patented in 1917 as the “Separable Fastener”. Only after Gideon Sundback, had remodeled Judson’s fastener into a more streamlined and reliable form, was the fastener a success. One of its first customers was the US Army. It applied zippers to the clothing and gear of the troops of World War I.
When the B. F. Goodrich Company decided to market galoshes with Sundback’s fasteners, the product became popular. These new galoshes could be fastened with a single zip of the hand. A Goodrich executive is said to have slid the fastener up and down on the boot and exclaimed, “Zip ‘er up,” echoing the sound made by this clever device and the fasteners came to be called “zippers.”
Registered in 1925, zipper was originally a B.F. Goodrich trademark for overshoes with fasteners. As the fastener that “zipped” came to be used in other articles, its name was used as well. B.F. Goodrich sued to protect its trademark but was allowed to retain proprietary rights only over Zipper Boots. Zipper itself had moved into the world of common nouns.
Today the YKK Group is most famous for making zippers, although it also does business in other fastening products, architectural products, and industrial machinery.
When you see YKK, you think of zippers, because we have manufactured zippers since 1934.. The name YKK was first registered as a trademark in 1946. Over the years, the letters “YKK” were stamped onto the zippers’ pull tabs, and thus YKK became known as the Company’s trademark.
The YKK stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha. In 1934 Tadao Yoshida founded Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha (translated Yoshida Industries Limited). This company is now the worlds foremost zipper manufacturer, making about 90% of all zippers in over 206 facilities in 52 countries. In fact, they not only make the zippers, they also make the machines that make the zippers; no word on if they make the machines that make the parts that make up the machines that make the zippers. Their largest factory in Georgia makes over 7 million zippers per day.