Sunday, December 12, 2004

Founding Fathers Hate American Christmas

Those of you who visit Atrios (all of you, I'd guess) have already learned this, but it bears repeating

History Channel - Christmas

When was the celebration of Christ's birth (Christmas) first declared a federal holiday in the US?


Nearly a century after the US was a nation. I guess Jesus wasn't so important to the Founding Fathers.

And, for those who aren't so interested in American history, guess when the first friction matches were sold. It's earlier than when Christmas was a holiday. Remarkable.

What is the history of the fire-producing match? What did phosphorus have to do with it? When were safety matches created, and when did they finally become important in the US? And why is "phossy jaw" an important medical issue during the development of the match?

All answered -- with more interesting stuff -- in this fascinating piece. Here's an intersting side point:
Phosphorus vapour is oxidised in air to phosphorus(V) oxide (P4O10) and it the oxide that is dangerous. It is taken into the body through cavities in the teeth and destroys the jaw, causing 'phossy jaw' or phosphorus necrosis. It does not attack people with sound teeth and the match manufacturers introduced free dental treatment and regular inspections to protect their workers.
There are pictures of "phossy jaw" available on the web, such as here. (Warning: not a pretty picture, though not a graphic wound photo.)

In the match essay above, one can compare the actions of various government in dealing with "phossy jaw." I leave that up to the web-surfer.

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