Zippo lighters

Eventually he found the monogrammed Zippo lighter his father had given him in the front pocket of his trousers—how did it get there? It was usually in his breast coat pocket— and pulled it out. (Not2Nite)

Zippo lighters are often seen as a hallmark of US commercial culture, standing alongside other iconic American brands like Harley-Davidson, Coca-Cola or even Disney. It’s ironic, therefore, that the inventor and founder of the Zippo Manufacturing Company, George G. Blaisdell, based the design on an earlier Austrian lighter, although he improved upon considerable.

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Frank Sinatra, seen here with his classic Zippo resting atop his package of cigarettes on the table, became a teen idol during the second world war. Sinatra went from strength to strength and has been called the greatest singer of the twentieth century. (Perhaps there’s hope for Justin Bieber.)

The lighter itself sits in a coated brass case with a flip top. To light the flame the user flips the top of the case open and spins a small wheel that sparks against a flint and ignites the naphtha-soaked wick. One of the things that initially made Zippos so popular and practical (and continues to do so) is that the wick sits inside a protective chimney, so that the flame is very difficult to blow out, even under very adverse conditions and won’t even go out in the rain. Though the lighter contains 22 parts and goes through 108 manufacturing processes it is extremely easy to use.

Guy got his Zippo just in time. When the Americans entered the war in 1942 Zippo immediately stopped commercial manufacturing. For the duration of World War II all their lighters were reserved for the American military. By the end of the war their popularity was assured. Since then Zippos have ‘starred’ in more than 1500 movies, plays and television shows and most people are familiar with their tell-tale click as they are opened and closed.

Zippo is famous for its “It works or we fix it free” slogan. If Guy were around today and dropped his lighter again all he would need to do is send it back to the company to have it repaired or replaced despite it being 75 years since he first dropped it on a street in London during the Blitz.

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