Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How Old Is This Zipper?

I have a lot of zippers. More than I need to last a lifetime. A fair number of those zippers are more than 30 years old.

From 1969 to 1978, we lived in Meadville, Pennsylvania. At that time the headquarters of Talon was in Meadville, and Meadville was known as "The Home of the Hookless Fastener." Talon was a (the?) major zipper producer in the US, and one of our neighbors was an engineer at Talon. At the factory, there apparently was a box of not-quite-perfect zippers, and employees were allowed to take what they needed. Our neighbors knew that I sewed, and the engineer would bring me reject zippers from time to time. These zippers were perfectly functional. There might be a misweave in the zipper tape or the zipper stop might be put on backwards. Occasionally the color of the teeth did not match the color of the tape. These zippers were not packaged. I have a pretty good group of unpackaged zippers.

I also have a nice collection of packaged zippers from the last millennium, and this zipper is one of them. Some of them were mine to start with, some came from my mother's stash, and some came from thrift stores. I don't know exactly how old this zipper is, but there are a few clues that a zipper detective could use to find out.

Look at the top picture. This zipper is priced at 50 cents. It's a bargain! Today a 12 inch zipper would cost more than three times as much. You wouldn't even need a zipper detective to determine when a 12 inch zipper cost 50 cents. All you would need would be an economist and/or a statistician and information about the rate of inflation. If you are one of those persons, go for it! When did this kind of zipper cost 50 cents?

Look at the next picture. The package says that the coils are two continuous nylon coils, and there is a warning printed on the zipper tape about using a hot iron. I don't remember ever seeing this warning on a zipper tape before, but I don't think that means the zipper is a new-fangled 21st century item. Today polyester is used instead of nylon in zippers. I know I shouldn't use a very hot iron on these zippers, but I don't pay much attention to my iron temperature. I've never melted a zipper.

The last picture explains that the zipper is "Magically Self-Healing." This was a new concept when the nylon coil zippers first came out. Anyone who has tried to repair a metal zipper and ended up using rude language understands the appeal of magical self-healing. Note also that the second numbered point says strong. This is also important. Some of the early nylon coil zippers were magically self-splitting.

So how old is this zipper? Late 60s or early 70s?

Want to know more about this history of the zipper (and who wouldn't)? Check out this American Heritage article by Robert Friedel. After you read it, you may qualify as a zipper detective.

This zipper, whatever its age, is going into a pair of khaki slacks.

1 comment:

Lisa Criswell / Indigo's Beads said...

this was very well-written. i never thought i'd be interested in reading about zippers, but you had me all the way to the end. now i'm curious to know...just how old is that zipper???