On April 24th 2012 the Google homepage was taken over by a doodle celebrating what would have been the 132nd birthday of Gideon Sundback, the inventor of the zipper. The doodle featured an interactive zipper down the middle of the logo. Users were able pull the zipper up and down, the doodle and associated blog can still be viewed by clicking here. In the doodle, the Google logo appeared in its trademark colours of blue, green, yellow and red, however the letters were represented in a stitch design.
Gideon Sundback was born on April 20th 1880, on Sonarp Farm, in Jönköping County, Småland, Sweden. His father was a prosperous and successful farmer. Following his early studies in Sweden, Sundback moved to Germany to continue his studies. Whilst in Germany he studied at the polytechnic school in Bingen am Rhein, where he graduated in 1903 after taking his engineer exam.
Following his studies, Sundback moved to America in 1905 and began to work at the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, in Pittsburgh. A year later he gained employment with the Universal Fastener Company of Hoboken, New Jersey. Whilst at the Universal Fastener Company he enjoyed a successful career and was promoted to the position of head designer in 1909. On June 5th 1909 Sundback married Elvira Aronson in Hoboken, New Jersey. Between the years 1906 and 1914 Sundback made a number of advances in inventing the zipper, he was helped by the work of previous engineers which included Mark Wolff and Elias Howe.
In 1913 Sundback developed the “Hookless Fastener No.1”, on this fastener he increased the number of fastening elements from four per inch to ten or twelve per inch. This was his first invention to bear any resemblance to the modern zipper, as it featured two sets of facing rows of teeth which were connected into a single piece with a slider.
Building on the design of “Hookless Fastener No.1” Sundback designed the “Hookless Fastener No.2”, this second design had all of the essentials which are associated with the modern metal zipper. Following on from this breakthrough, Sundback requested a patent for what he had called the “Seperable Fastener”, the patent was issued in 1917. The patent is listed as U.S. Patent 1,219,881.
It was not until 1923 that the Seperable Fastener became known as the Zipper. The name has been attributed to B.F. Goodrich, who used the fastener on their boots. In the beginning the Zipper was primarily used on boots and tobacco pouches. It took a further 20 years for the Zipper to become widely used in fashion clothing. The transition of the Zipper from boots and tobacco pouches to everyday clothing was largely complete by the outbreak of World War Two. At this time zippers were widely used on the flies of trousers and on the plackets of skirts and dresses.
Gideon Sundback received a number of prestigious accolades during his lifetime, these included being awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, which was presented in 1951. Sundback also received posthumous recognition, in 2006 he was admitted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, due to his work in the design and invention of the Zipper.
Sundback died on June 21st 1954, at the age of 74, as the result of a heart condition. His body was buried at Greendale Cemetery in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Google have celebrated the birthdays of a number of prominent inventors. Other inventors and innovators to receive dedicated Google doodles include, Samuel Morse, Louis Braille and Hermann Rorschach.