The first that can be called “friction match” was invented by John Walker in 1826, using potassium chlorate, sugar and antimony trisulphide on sand paper to ignite it. The British chemist never thought much of his match and never even patented the invention. However, a few years later, Charles Sauria realised the potential and perfected the earlier version by replacing antimony sulphide with white phosphorus. …Although they were manufactured over a number of decades, the toxicity of white phosphorus slowly became apparent. The long term exposure to white phosphorus of those making the matches led to ‘phossy jaw’ – an affliction which caused toothaches, major swelling of the gums, disfigurement, and eventual brain damage. …The problem was solved when in 1850 it was discovered that heating white phosphorus at 250 degree Celsius produces a reddish inert material (red phosphorus). This certainly made a safer alternative to produce matches, but the real leap in terms of safety came when in 1859 the reactive ingredients were separated between the head of the match and a special striking strip.
image via Compound Interest