You can search far and wide to own a piece of history. Sometimes, though, the real deal is right under your nose.
Essentially unchanged for eighty years, beloved of GIs, rock-n-rollers, and movie stars alike, US-made Zippo lighters are synonymous with an era. Once you hold it, flick it, and hear the ‘ching’, you’ll love it. But it’s not just cool – it’s practical too, built to a design essentially unchanged in 80 years.
Under the lid, there’s a windproof chimney, the bright idea of an inventor named George Blaisdell. He had the idea in 1933 after watching a friend struggle to light a cigarette on a windy day. The wheel sparks a replaceable flint, which ignites the lighter’s gasoline fuel; closing the lid again extinguishes the flame. Refilling is easy: slide the inner case out, douse the cotton wool pad in fuel, and you’re done. If you’re a beginner, this Zippo All-In-One Kit includes everything you need: fuel, flints and a chrome-brushed Zippo lighter.
Since 1933, Zippo has sold more than 500 million lighters, in thousands of designs ranging from the brushed chrome model to a solid gold model that reportedly goes for $18,000. All Zippo gasoline lighters are still made in Bradford, PA, where Zippo employs 950 people.
As long as you can keep it – easier said than done when you’re bar-hopping – a Zippo will last you for life and possibly beyond. Frank Sinatra loved his so much that he had himself buried with it.