The Zipper Gets a Makeover

By Jennifer Albers-Smith

Under Armor is taking the zipper and giving it a radical makeover (check the story out here).

It turns out that the zipper made its first appearance at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The zipper that was introduced there has undergone only minor modifications since then. That’s 121 years that this invention has remained mostly unchanged. Not many inventions have those bragging rights.

Just look at how the sewing machine or the plow or the telephone has changed over time. My sewing machine runs entirely on electricity – with only slight pressure from my foot – and all of the stitches are programmed onto cards. Farmers used to take the plow and hitch it to their horses; now, their giant tractors plow several feet at one time. And the iPhone? Not even connected to a telephone jack.

Gale’s new archive, Smithsonian Collections Online: World’s Fairs and Expositions: Visions of the Future, (launching in June 2014) will give students and faculty the opportunity to see when and where such revolutionary inventions were introduced to the world. This archive captures the spirit, technology, design, and innovations that influenced the modern world through primary source materials acquired from the Smithsonian Libraries, Smithsonian Institution Archives, and the Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

With World’s Fairs and Expositions: Visions of the Future, researchers can trace the zipper’s–or a number of other inventions’–first appearance. Add in the newspaper collections on Gale NewsVault, and you can flip through decades at a time watching the invention transform and evolve into how it looks today. Neat!

Hey, I bet you’re wearing something with a zipper on it today.



photoAbout the Author

Jennifer loves her children, dogs, and Jane Austen. She has a B.A. in English and Sociology from the University of Michigan, and spends her waking hours as a marketing director and feeding her family.



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