This is a Victorian vesta box made by John Sankey & Son of Moston Lane, Manchester.
A vesta box was basically a small portable box which held vestas (short matches). The name vesta stems from the Roman Goddess of fire and hearth. There origins date from around the 1830s and continued right through until around the 1920s. More elaborate boxes can be found made of gold or silver, which were targeted to the more wealthy in society, whilst those less fortunate, held their vestas in cases made of tin or brass.
The safety match wasn’t perfected until 1855 in Sweden and wasn’t quickly taken up in Britain, with many workers left to suffer the consequences of working with the standard substance for match making at the time, white phosphorous. A dangerous substance which caused its workers to develop fossy jaw, a disease which rotted away their teeth and jaw bones. Many factory fires of the time were also caused by the careless handling of phosphorous. It wasn’t until 31st December, 1910 that the white phosphorus was eventually banned in match making, after a two wait after the law had been passed in 1908. Typically white phosphorus was used because it was cheaper to buy and less expensive to manufacture.
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