The World's Greatest Elephant

This unique matchsafe is a keepsake from the early 1900s, celebrating Lucy the Margate Elephant, a landmark of South Atlantic City, N.J. (now called Margate). Portable matchsafes were used to protect wooden matches from moisture or combustion, and served as mementos, or conversation-starting trinkets that often made a statement about their owner. This particular piece commemorates a trip to the seaside to South Atlantic City, and a trip to see Lucy, “The World’s Greatest Elephant.”
matchsafe, souvenir, elephant, Atlantic City, tourism


Matches seem almost trivial to us in 2014. However, carrying matches was once a novelty and feat of man’s ability to harness instantaneous fire.  Gas-powered lighters and safety matches in matchboxes were not available on a wide scale until the 1930s. Wooden friction matches were first invented about a hundred years earlier, but were fickle and extremely combustible. Matchsafes were the solution to carry matches safely: to protect them from moisture and to hinder them from lighting involuntarily by reducing added friction.
matchsafe, match, light, cigarette

When you need to keep your matches dry...

Matchsafes can be considered a type of travel case. In about 1830, the first friction matches were invented, and matchsafes, usually stashed in a man’s vest pocket or attached to a watch chain, were designed to keep matches dry at a time when they were vital for lighting kitchen stoves as well as cigars, pipes, and cigarettes, as smoking became an increasingly integral part of the social scene during the second half of the nineteenth century.

The Wright Stuff

One hundred and ten years ago, Orville and Wilbur Wright launched their first flyer—it became the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to make a controlled, sustained, manned flight. By 1905, the brothers launched their third flyer, which solved many of the pitch problems in their previous two models. In October of that year, Wilbur made a series of circling flights ending in safe landings, the longest covering nearly 25 miles and lasting almost 40 minutes.
Wright brothers, matchsafe, aviation, commemorative