[Column 05] The Match Museum in Sweden; the only match museum in the world

The Greatest Match Country of the World

Sweden is one of the Nordic countries that are in the limelight recently for designing refined furniture and lifestyle.

Frankly speaking, there are only a few persons who know that Sweden is the greatest match country in the world.

I think it is mysterious that the fact that Sweden has accomplished the large match industry and has been supplying matches to various countries in the world is hardly written in any books of guiding, of history, of nature of Sweden, and of industry in bookstores.

Moreover, I wasn't able to find single matchbox at the Swedish Product Booth of the Nordic Exhibition which was held at a department store in Ginza lately; so I asked about it at the Japanese-speaking information desk. However, not only none of the persons in charge knew about Swedish matches, but also they were amazed by the fact that Sweden was the largest match producer in the world. I, in a way, wondered if there were particular circumstances or reasons to hide the fact Sweden had been prosperous through the match industry since old times. I am also curious to know if Japanese department stores refrain from selling matches thinking they are out-dated items. Whatever it is, I wonder if the acknowledgment about Swedish Match is a trivial because there are no match description in books and no match displays at the Nordic Exhibition.


  • [Column 1] Sweden, the match country that actively pursued the world market share
  • [Column02] Cherry flowers, the symbol of Japan, were the first design of Shinsuisha Co., Ltd.
  • [Column03] No. 1 label made in Japan
  • [Column04] Iwaya's cigarette labels of Tengu
  • [Column 05] The Match Museum in Sweden; the only match museum in the world
  • [Column06] | Memoir of "Match Wonderland Exhibition" at the Tomakomai City Museum
  • [Column07] | Kobe University's Auxiliary Library: Explore the source of modern Kobe, Suzuki Shop and 'rise and fall' of match industry

The country named Sweden

Jonkoping in Sweden

What we know about Sweden is first of all, "The Country of Nobel Prize" founded based on the will of Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite, and then images of "welfare state", "country of forests and lakes", and "Kingdom of glasses" are recalled.
In addition, though many are not aware, we owe Swedish people for inventions of refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, desk-top telephone, fastener, the pace-maker, seat belts, the mouse of personal computer, and the safety match, etc. The excellent body-shape bottle for the U.S.-made Coca-Cola was designed by a Swedish, too. As for companies, the world's largest furniture chain store IKEA, the Volvo Car, SAAB, Ericsson of telecommunication equipments, and Hasselblad@of the camera lens manufacturing are famous.

Jonkoping in Sweden The Svealand region is abundant in forests and lakes

The land in Sweden is 450,000 km2, which is 1.2 times larger than that of Japan, and 66% of the country is covered with the coniferous forests. The population is 9 million (the 84th in the world), which is very few compared with 130 million of Japan, and the Sweden's population is at Kanagawa Prefecture and the Osaka Prefecture level.

The Match Museum

The Match Museum stands in Jonkoping, the largest town in Svealand Province outskirts of the big Vattern Lake, the second large lake in Sweden, in the southeast from capital Stockholm.

In 1827, the friction match was invented by a British chemist John Walker using potassium chlorate and antimony sulfide on the burner side; and in 1844 John Edward Lundstrom and Carl Frans Lundstrom brothers in Sweden established a match factory in Jonkoping to manufacture lucifer matches.

The lucifer match, which was quickly and widely used at the beginning of match industry period, was convenient as it was easily ignited, but at the same time it was dangerous because it started fire easily from slight friction and/or low temperature as well as yellow phosphorus toxicity that caused workers dreadful occupational disease, 'the pocket poison gangrene,' which became serious social issues.

Then in 1855, John Lundstrom invented Sweden style safety match, the same match we are using now, by separating the combustible ingredients between the match stick head and the striking surface using newly discovered red phosphorus.
As a result, the safety match made with chemical ingredients separation for ignition and combustion took the patent, and made up the footing to conquer the world market.

There is a government-run match museum in the place in Jonkoping where the match factory was originally built around that time.

The Match Museum Curator of the Match Museum Remains where there was oncea Match factory Advertising plates John and Carl brothers A match manufacturing worker's house
Transcribed lithography stone Alexander Regelman

In the museum, old machines used in 1900's and automatic match manufacturing machines used in the middle of 1900's are shown as well as explanations about the miserable occupational disease from which woman workers (Lena) suffered by handling phosphorus.

Furthermore, the match manufacturing worker's house and the scenery of assembling the matchboxes at home are reproduced with mannequins.

In the second floor in the museum, an old matchstick-arraying machine is also exhibited; this machine was used in Japan until about 1955.

A lithography printing machine, which Japanese companies also were using until about 1950, was displayed, so we saw how the match trademarks were printed from the lithography stone, and the version of the match labels printed at that time.

In 1892, the automatic match manufacturing started by Alexander Lagerman, but the set up of the automatic machines was delayed in Japan until 1929. However, the machine factories were afterward burnt down due to the war, the actual mechanization of manufacturing matches in Japan was not done before 1961.

The historical story of a Swedish man, Ivar Kreuger who was called Match King in the world and worked aiming at the domination of the world markets is introduced, too. Kreuger tried acquisition of match business in Japan from 1924, and 70% of the Japanese matches were once manufactured by Swedish companies which jeopardized Japanese match business. However, the European Financial Panic that broke out in 1932 damaged Swedish match business, and the Sweden Match Trust withdrew from Japan due to the suicide of Ivar Kreuger.

The automatic match manufacturing machine The automatic machines to align the match sticks

The items exhibited in the Match Museum are many of trademark-registered match labels in Sweden that are historically valuable as well as match manufacturing machines, etc. which are all very interesting.

Besides the Match Museum, "Cigarette & Match Museum" has been established in the Skansen Open-Air Museum in Stockholm since 2000, and items related to matches are shown there.

* This column was written referring to the report of the Observational Tour by corporation Japan Match Manufacturers' Association to Sweden and Paris in France in June 2004.

San match Trademark match labels made by Jonkoping Company