Zippo has been around since before most of you and me, but not many people are aware of the rich history the brand boasts. Sure, the company makes 100s of different kinds of lighters, in all shapes and sizes, but there are certain titbits about the iconic Zippo lighters that you don’t know about. Since 1933, the company has been producing the highest quality lighters for a vast consumer base, and there are plenty of exciting and cool facts about the company that will definitely add to your trivia. In this article, we have tried to compile a list of some of the most worth-knowing:
World War II Helped the Company Soar
Even though it’s hard to attribute anything positive to a world war, Zippo did actually benefit a lot from the second greatest global atrocity. The company started selling a lot of lighters to the military, and at the time they were in high demand because you really could do with a light in times of chaos.
UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 01: 60th Anniversary Of Lighter ‘Zippo’ On March 1st, 1992 – Zippo Advertising Car (Photo by Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
American soldiers were able to buy lighters from ship stores or Army Exchanges, and they thought the legendary rugged design of the lighters to be a good fit with the prevalent combat scene. Ernie Pyle, a famous war reporter, aptly said, “On the battlefield, the Zippo Lighter is indeed the most coveted thing.”
The Inspiration Behind the First Zippo
You might find it hard to believe, but the inspiration behind the first windproof lighter came from a weird-looking Australian lighter. George Blaisdell, the founder of the company, once saw a man using a cumbersome lighter from the Bradford Country Club porch.
Source: George G. Blaisdell. americanantiquities.com
He proceeded to ask him why he was using such a weird lighter that had a protective top. The man replied, “Well, it works.”. Blaisdell then thought that the world was ready for the next breed of lighters, and he was the man who would give it to them. He named the lighter “Zippo” because he liked how the word “Zipper” sounded.
One Bradford Factory Manufactures All the Lighters
Many companies that make millions in revenue each year have multiple factories, often scattered all across the country (and sometimes, even the globe), but Zippo is an exception. It manufactures and sells over 10 million lighters every year, and all of them come from a single place.
UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 01: 60th Anniversary Of Lighter ‘Zippo’ On March 1st, 1992 – First Zippo Factory In Bradford (Photo by Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
The old factory in Bradford where the first ever Zippo lighter was made, still acts as the breeding ground for all Zippo lighters in the world. The company has under 1000 employees, which is really unbelievable considering how magnanimous its reputation is.
Zippos Can Save Lives
No, really. A zippo can save a life. Every old man has at least one great Zippo anecdote to share with his grandchildren, and some even claim that it saved their lives during the war. A war veteran once told the company that a Zippo stopped a bullet for them during combat.
1935 Stars And Stripes Zippo Replica For The 60th Anniversary Of Zippo Lighters, March 1992. (Photo by Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
The veteran’s wife gave him the zippo before he went to Vietnam and it actually saved his life by stopping a bullet. In addition to being great war shields, they can also act as lifesavers in civilian life. In 2010, a man who was shot by a burglar dodged a bullet because it hit the zippo in his pocket and ricocheted away.
A Fish Helped in Marketing
As crazy as the heading may sound, it is indeed true. After Zippo became a favorite among the soldiers because of its sturdy design, and after the company advertised its durability and toughness tremendously after the war, it found an unlikely source of marketing.
The IBM Factory Of Corbeil-Essonnes, Development And Production Of Electronic Components On February 1st, 1992 – The Plant Near Paris (Photo by Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
A 1960 ad told a story of a fisherman who found a Zippo lighter within the stomach of an 18-pound pike, which he caught from the New York Lake. Tragic as the incident may sound, it ended up garnering a lot of publicity for the brand because the fisherman was able to light the lighter on the very first try.
There Used to Be a Zippo Car
During the decades following the Zippo’s inception, the company (and Blaisdell in general) made a lot of innovative marketing efforts. He even got a Chrysler Saratoga altered to make the first-ever Zippo Car. The car had a huge lighter mounted on top of it, and the company execs used to ride it around town.
Zippo Car – a 1947 Chrysler Saratoga “product-mobile” built for the Zippo Manufacturing Company in Bradford, PA. Source: horsepowersports.com
However, a few years later, the car was unable to stay operational because the weight of the giant lighter kept on blowing the tires out. They decided to take the car to Toohey Motors in Pittsburgh, but because the repair costs were too steep, they forewent the idea to get it fixed at the time. Before they knew it, 10 years passed, and when they actually returned to check on the car, they couldn’t find it. We still don’t know what became of it.
More Than Just a Light
Just like stamps, CDs, antiques, and art; some people also like to collect lighters. There are around 14 different lighter collecting clubs around the world, and to them, Zippo is more than just a light.
60th Anniversary of Lighter ‘Zippo’ On March 1st, 1992 – American Collection (Photo by Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
There is a community known as “On the Lighter Side” or OTLS, which even released a few video series a couple years ago, and there is another club known as Pocket Lighter and Pyro Gadgets. Zippo collectors are also present across the world, in countries like Japan and China.
A Zippo Museum Exists
The Zippo Museum in Bradford is home to all the historical artifacts of the company. The Zippo Repair Clinic is also present there. Fascinating objects like the American flag made up of 3000 Zippo lighters, the first ever Zippo lighter, and the 500 millionth Zippo lighter can be found there.
Zippo Museum – Bradford, PA. Source: exploringupstate.com
The inaugural lighter even has a small business card attached to the side. Blaisdell wrote the words, “First Zippo Lighter — Don’t touch” on it. The Zippo Communication team believes that it’s the most visited museum in all of northern Pennsylvania.
Frank Sinatra was a Huge Fan
The king of pop had a taste for many beautiful things in life, and the Zippo lighter was undoubtedly one of them. During his life, he was an avid user, and his close friends claim that he always kept one by his side.
Stereo Review’s Record of the Year 1974, Art Tatum’s Watch from Frank Sinatra, Art Tatum Zippo Cigaratte Lighters, Certificate from the Jazz Hall of Fame and The Art Tatum International Jazz Hall of Fame Award are previewed by Guernsey’s Auction house on July 24, 2018 in New York, United States. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
He loved the lighter so much that he was buried with one. Along with a bottle of Jack Daniels, a few dimes, and Camel cigarettes, Frank’s coffin also contained his favorite Zippo lighter.
Zippo Scents Exist
Zippo is more than just a lighter; it’s a lifestyle. It’s a brand that can be associated with those who enjoy a premium lifestyle. This is why, according to Pat Grandy, the Zippo Communication Manager, it made sense to release a collection of Zippo fragrances in Italy; a country where the brand is considered a staple of style.
60th Anniversary Of Zippo Lighters, March 1992. (Photo by Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Zippo Original, On the Road, Zippo – The Woman, and In the Blue are some of the various options available; and, in case you were wondering, no, they don’t smell anything like the lighter fluid.