For a variety of human activities an easy and convenient access to fire is essential. Man has strived for eons to create a method of providing fire on demand. In 1826 an English chemist named John Walker developed the first successful friction match. As the name implies, the friction match used the heat generated by the action of friction to ignite a chemical mixture into flame. Also called vestas or Lucifers, friction matches had the undesired tendency to ignite unexpectedly when carried loose and unprotected in a pocket or purse. Necessity again spurred the creation and wide spread use of the match holder or match safe in the mid-19th Century. Match safes remained popular accessories for both men and women from the mid-1800’s until the 1920’s when matchbooks and lighters became widespread alternatives. However, during the “golden age” of match safes, there was no shortage of beautiful and novel designs for these miniature works of art.
Yellow Garage dealer Hewling’s House Antiques presents an elaborate silver plated figural owl vesta match safe. The owl has intricately detailed feathers on the front, rear and sides. The pictures provide the most accurate description of the intricate metalwork. The owls’ head is hinged to give access to the match compartment. This petite match safe measures 2 3\4” X 1 3\4”. Produced during the height of the match safe’s popularity, this diminutive artistic creation represents the elegant blending of aesthetic appeal and practicality of the period.