Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/432

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the room, delivered in trays near the cutting-machine, and thence sent to the packing-room. In wax-matches, or vestas, the composition is attached to a few cotton-threads immersed in a mixture of paraffin and stearin. One or two hundred of these wicks are rolled around a cylinder and separated by a comb. They pass through a bath of melted wax and are afterward drawn through holes in a metal frame, which renders the tapers smooth, cylindrical, and of the proper size and shape. A mechanical knife cuts, at one time, all the wicks according to the determined length, from one to one and a quarter inch, after which the paste is applied to their ends with great rapidity.

In the manufacture of matches much trouble has been occasioned by the use of phosphorus, as its fumes attack the teeth of the workmen, and give rise to a disease known as caries of the jaw-bones. In some of the small and poorly-managed factories the men and children are never free from the fumes; their clothes and breath are luminous in the dark, and in the daytime white fumes may be seen escaping from them whenever they are seated by the fire. The phosphorus first attacks a decayed tooth, causing pain which constantly becomes greater. The gums are sore, the face swollen, and the teeth finally drop out. The suffering is excruciating, the patient finds little relief for months or years, and, in a severe case, there is loss of one or both jaw-bones, hindering mastication and ending in death. So alarming did this disease become in Germany at one time that it attracted the attention of the Government. No antidote has yet been discovered; but it can be prevented to a great extent by ventilation and cleanliness. We have inquired of several of the leading American manufacturers in regard to the subject, and all say that their workmen are not troubled in this manner. No examination of their teeth is enforced, the men being merely warned as to the consequences before they begin their work.

Partly as a remedy for this evil, the red or amorphous phosphorus was substituted for the ordinary variety. This possesses neither odor nor taste, is not poisonous, and can be handled with safety. The danger arising from the use of matches was magnified, because they could sometimes be seen in the dark, were liable to ignite on a warm shelf, and were poisonous to such an extent that children had been killed by using them as playthings. From red phosphorus resulted the safety match. Many attempts were made to form a paste with red phosphorus and chlorate of potash without success, and finally the paste and phosphorus were separated. The heads now consist of a pasty mass composed mainly of sulphuret of antimony and chlorate of potash. The red phosphorus, mixed with very fine sand or other substance, is glued to the box in which the matches are contained. It is impossible to light such matches by friction upon any common rough surface, though they at once burst into flame when rubbed upon the phosphorus composition on the box. They can sometimes be lighted