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Discover Jakob Friedrich Kammerer:

A democrat and his spark of inspiration

Jakob Friedrich Kammerer, born on 24 May 1796 in Ehningen (Germany, Württemberg), would have been 220 years old this month. Without him we would be in the dark from time to time, as he invented the phosphorus friction match in 1832.

Kammerer had first continued the sieve maker business of his father. Since this was not profitable, he became a hat maker. In the course of time he also produced other things, amongst them waterproof boots and musical instruments. He became known for the invention of phosphorus matches.

At the beginning of the 19th century, sparking a fire was still an arduous task. Although lighters and matches were already invented, their usage was linked to handling hazardous chemicals that could lead to skin injuries. Only the phosphorus match which was lit at a friction surface made everyday life much easier. Although it is not clearly determinable who was the inventor, Kammerer certainly was one of the pioneers. From 1832 on, he produced his matches in Ludwigsburg.

Johann Friedrich Kammerer was not only an inventor and entrepreneur, he was also a confirmed democrat. From a trip he brought a French Revolution Constitution of 1793 from Strasbourg and was a participant of the Hambach Festival in 1832. In the course of a wave of arrests he was held in custody in 1833, but was granted bail after three months. In 1838 he was finally sentenced to two years imprisonment for his democratic activities. He was pardoned in 1840 on the condition that he would emigrate to North America within two weeks.

As a result, he fled to Riesbach near Zurich, where he rebuilt another matchstick factory. His house became a refuge for political refugees of the German revolution of 1848. He gave shelter to the pedagogue Friedrich Fröbel, the revolutionary leader Friedrich Hecker and the poet Georg Herwegh.