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Zipperby Robert Friedel
Synopses & Reviews
It is almost impossible to imagine modern life without this device; yet for the first thirty years or so, from its patent in the late nineteenth century, it represented no real advantage over traditional fasteners like the hook-and-eye or the old-fashioned button. The zipper was mechanically awkward, liable to rust, liable to fail (i.e., snag or burst open), and so expensive that it doubled the retail price of a skirt or a pair of pants. But from the beginning the zipper had an allure, a mystery, a kind of sex appeal that would be echoed in songs, poems, and popular novels. Robert Friedel has written a fascinating history--full of strange twists, paradoxes, and interesting characters--of this signature gadget of the twentieth century. Inventor Whitcomb Judson (whose efforts lay mostly in patenting a doomed undertaking known as the Pneumatic Streetcar) gave the zipper life; businessman Colonel Lewis Walker had the capital and the faith to back it for forty years; and cultural icons such as Marlon Brando, Erica Jong, and the Rolling Stones helped to turn it into a symbol for sexuality and style. Not just the story of a distinctive technology, is an entertaining, informative examination of how new things become part of our daily lives, shaping how we think and act.
The story of the zipper is the triumph of an ingenious novelty over the practical world.
The zipper was invented 100 years ago by Whitcomb Judson, a frustrated man with a penchant for complexity. This book tells the fascinating story of how a useless technological novelty worked its way into daily life and took its place as one of the defining artifacts of the 20th century. Photos.
About the Author
Robert Friedel is a professor of the history of technology and science at the University of Maryland, College Park. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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