Gadget Freak: The Fiery And Luminous Story Of The Zippo

September 4, 2015


Every product has its own royal member, so to say. A product of a certain brand that made its way to the pedestal of the whole category. A particular brand’s that first comes to mind. One of those products is definitely the Zippo lighter – a small device that changed the world one light at a time.

The Beginning

George G. Blaisdell was the genius man who invented the practical Zippo lighter, way back in 1932, in his garage of all places.

Blaisdell was working on a design for a lighter that would be both sturdy and easy to use, preferably by one hand. After achieving to create just that, he decided on giving it name that sounded modern – the “zipper.”

The Zipper was not much different from what we know and recognize today as the Zippo.

It was made from rectangular brass tubing with the top and bottom pieces soldered to the hollow tubing in order to form a lid and the bottom of the case. The Zipper was square cornered, and the hinge was soldered to the outside. The case was chrome plated, which gave it its distinctive slick look. For just $1.95, you could make your life much easier in 1932 and you even got a lifetime guarantee for your helpful lighter.

As the devastating WW II spread over the globe, the nickel-plated case was no longer an option for Blaisdell. Brass and chrome was also in shortage, however, he found another solution which involved porous steel coated with black paint. Those models are referred to as the “black crackle” lighters today.

Another thing that changed during wartime was the accessibility of everyday Joe’s to the famous lighter. From 1943 to 1945 the lighters were only available to military personnel, and they surely loved them. They liked to personalize their beloved Zippos by scratching the surface of the lighters, thus developing a deep connection to the product that went beyond the usefulness of it.

Our clever George became known as Mr. Zippo thanks to Ernie Pyle, a war correspondent who spent time with front line troops across the war areas. Pyle wrote columns in which he described the day-to-day lives of the soldiers fighting for the right cause.

As the soldiers were very familiar with Zippo lighters, Pyle mentioned them a lot. Blaisdell liked Pyle’s column so much he sent him a Zippo lighter with Pyle’s signature engraved on the side, and also another 50 lighters for Pyle to give away.

The lighters from the 1936-1945 period can be easily recognized as they were introduced with a new design – round corners and the absence of the post-1946 concave bottom.

The Zippo Today

The famous and worldwide recognized Zippo Company and name as produced more than a whopping 325 million lighters since 1934, and it isn’t planning to stop anytime soon. It still produces several lighters for all the branches of the Military, as well as for Rangers and Navy Seals. It also has a whole array of products for the everyday man, varying in style and function.