This short traces how English chemist John Walker invented the wooden friction match in the first half of the 19th century.


(as Cyril Endfield)




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John Nesbitt ...


Fictionalized look at the discovery of friction matches in 1826 by John Walker, an English druggist. The short takes us through the history of humans and fire, from logs hit by lightening and campfires in caves to oil lamps, flint and steel, tallow candles, and phosphorescent taper. Walker is portrayed as a husband and father whose daughter is injured in a fire caused by a phosphorescent taper. He dedicates his research to finding a safer source of fire. His discovery is based on hard work with a bit of luck. The result: it's now much easier to light a cigarette. Written by <>

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Short | History





Release Date:

19 January 1946 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Passing Parade No. 57: Magic on a Stick  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Followed by City of Children (1949) See more »

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User Reviews

Extremely Entertaining Short
7 January 2010 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

Magic on a Stick (1946)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

The fifty-seventh Passing Parade short takes a look at chemist John Walker, a man who found it difficult to use flint to start a fire. After a personal tragedy Walker sets up to try and develop and easier way to create fire and ends up making what would become known as a match. MGM produced countless short series back in the day but John Nesbitt's Passing Parade is without question one of their best. I think it's also safe to say that the budget allowed this series was very low but they didn't let that stop them as they used great or interesting stories to make their name. I'm not sure how many people are interested in the history of fire but when you can get it in nine-minutes it makes for something very interesting and entertaining. We see how fire was created before the match and we even get some light humor as to the trouble it would often take just to get it going. The reasons behind Walker's obsession were quite interesting and how he actually ended up coming to find what was needed also made for a great story.

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