What Did Whitcomb L. Judson Do in Chicago in 1893?

Whitcomb L. Judson patented a prototype of the zipper in Chicago in 1893. The zipper was intended to be a replacement for shoe buttons. Although Judson is largely credited with the invention, his "clasp locker" was somewhat different than the modern zipper.

Elias Howe, who invented the sewing machine, had created an even earlier prototype of the zipper than Judson's. But Howe never attempted to patent or market his invention. So Judson is credited with the invention. Judson was already an accomplished inventor when he came up with the idea for his clasp locker several decades later. The clasp locker was exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, but did not become successful because it frequently malfunctioned or jammed. Gideon Sunbach, and engineer, refined Judson's invention in 1913. After Sunbach made the zipper more reliable, it became a staple in clothing and shoes used by the United States Army. The term zipper wasn't coined, however, until 1923, when the B.F. Goodrich company began manufacturing galoshes with a zipper. Ironically, Judson died in 1909 and never saw Sunbach's refined prototype or heard the term "zipper." By the mid-1930s, zippers were no longer exclusive to the military and had become a staple in clothing and shoes for civilians as well.