The Zippo Legacy
The Zippo Story begins in the early 1930's. One summer night, the Blaisdell's attended a dinner dance at the Bradford Country Club, in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Mr. Blaisdell being tired of the dancing and idle talk of politics stepped out onto the terrace. There he observes a friend trying to use an Australian made lighter. The lighter worked fairly well considering it was awkward and cumbersome to use. With its chimney design it worked well in the wind, however the lighter took both hands to operate, also due to the fact that it was made of a soft, thin metal it dented very easily. The lighter didn't seem very practical for everyday use and was very unattractive for the perfectly attired gentleman. The friend being a little embarrassed, told him that with all of its faults "it works." This statement kept running through Mr. Blaisdell's mind. He was always looking for new ways and ideas to make money, which was hard to come by in the depression era. Even though the economy was at a stand still, the idea was that in these times everyone could be looking for a lighter "something sturdy, durable and at a reasonable price" in good times and bad. This lighter idea looked very promising.
Mr. Blaisdell immediately obtained the sole rights from the manufacturer of the Australian lighter. In 1932 he had decided to refashion the Australian lighter. He kept the chimney design but it did not work as well as he thought it should. He proceeded to redesign the chimney to make the lighter more windproof, a design in which the chimney protected the flame against the wind. He then fabricated a small rectangular case that could be handled easily with one hand, and then attached the top of the lighter with a hinge thus producing the click and the first Zippo lighter. To market this new lighter Mr. Blaisdell came up with the concept that began with the first lighter and is still the same today, a lifetime unconditional warranty.
The word Zippo is derived from several different variations of the word zipper. Mr. Blaisdell liked the sound of the word zipper so he decided on the modern variation and called his product ZIPPO.
The original patent was filed on May 17, 1934. While other patents have been issued to the Zippo Lighter Company, the Zippo lighter basically remains the same to this day with only minor improvements.
There are currently 550 models of the Zippo lighter being made at the Zippo Manufacturing Companies in Bradford, Pennsylvania and a second facility in Niagara Falls, Canada.
By the time World War II had started, America was the top market place for the Zippo lighters. The war had a profound effect on the Zippo lighter. The military personnel carried the lighters into battle with them resulting in a heavy production for the companies. The results were the forming of a catalyst that established Zippo as an icon of America throughout the world.
During the 70's and 80's Zippo greatly expanded it marketing and sales efforts. The Zippo lighters are now being sold in over 120 countries with Japan being the largest country outside the United States.
The Zippo lighter phenomena is an unparalleled experience for people who want to be collectors. They number about 4 million in the US, with millions more all over the world. Collectors Clubs have been established all over the world. To enhance the Zippo experience, swap meets have been springing up all over, once a year in Bradford, Pennsylvania and Japan a Zippo sponsored swap meet is held.
Since 1932, the very first Zippo lighter and every lighter there after have been backed by Mr. Blaisdell's unconditional lifetime guarantee -
"IT WORKS OR WE FIX IT FREE"
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