A General Timeline From 1932 to 1992
Images added :- 11th March 2006
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1930 saw the start of the great depression, At this time, George Grant Blaisdell was co-owner and manager of the Blaisdell Oil Company. One of many companies facing a rapidly approaching period of time that was nothing short of financial disaster.
Consider that in 1930 the average 'skilled' worker was earning a weekly wage of 29 dollars, while a 'non skilled worker had a weekly income of around 22 dollars (women earning 25-30% less), and the Zippo lighter can be seen as something of a luxury item to all but the most affluent of the time.
The fact that Blasdell's new venture survived the great depression of 1930 to 1939 was nothing short of miraculous in itself. During the first 7 years of Zippo production, the US watched stock prices lose 40% of their value, 9000 banks go out of business, 9 million savings accounts were wiped out, and wages were decreased by an average of 60%. Unemployment in this period went up from around 9% to 25 percent, some 15 million jobless people.
Blaisdell takes Austrian patent imported units, modifies them and sets about selling them. It's believed that these 82 modified items were actually marked as Zippo. They sold at the time, for $1.95 apiece. Not a small amount at the time. The grand total from these sales added up to the sum of $69.50.
Full scale production of the 'Tall' case models began in February. This taller model was only made during 1933. The whereabouts of these early Zippos are lost in time, with only 41 confirmed 32/33 lighters currently known to be in existence, of which, only 7 have the original hook cam.
Case height reduced by a quarter of an inch. Patent applied for on may 17th 1934. Kendall Oils order 500 lighters with metallique logo on the front of each lighter.
Outside hinge changed to an inside hinge during 1936, though both outside and inside hinge manufacture took place during 1936. The first sterlings (with inside hinge) arrive.
Humped flat spring used to replace the previous coiled springs of the previous models. Any lighters returned for repair had the coiled springs removed and the humped flat spring fitted. The tube for the coiled spring was left untouched leaving an open hole under the cam area. Sports models enter the marketplace.
Brass drawn case with rounded corners makes first appearance.
Model 1 'Barcroft' Table lighter is created. Model 1 was only manufactured during 1939 and 1940.
Last year of the totally plain inserts. 1st steel outer cases produced, 4 barrel hinges in use and the insert is steel.
Black crackle models throughout this year were manufactured using steel with a 4 barrel hinge. This was the only year the 4 barrel hinge was used for the Black crackle lighter.
Steel Black crackle models using a 3 barrel hinge are made during America's war years. The 3 barrel Black crackle production was geared towards supplying the military throughout 1943-45.
During 1946 and into 1947 Zippo cases are made from Nickle Silver Alloy.
Model 2 'Barcroft' (#10 Table lighter) arrives on scene, the model 2 was only made for 2 years before being replaced by another variant. Loss proof models are released onto the marketplace and Prototype 'Town and Country' models are produced (The town and country series was still being produced as late as 1960).
Zippo produce a 3 barrel hinge sterling model.
3rd model 'Barcroft' arrives and continues in production until 1954. Official release this year of the Town and Country series. 1st Lady Bradford model (without flanged base) is manufactured, but is later recalled, allegedly due to stability issues.
Full leather covered lighter is released, this lighter continued to be made through to 1957 and has a small flange where the faces of the top and bottom sections of the lighter meet. Lady Bradford was remanufactured and stayed in production until April 1954. Zippo produce Sterling model with a 5 barrel hinge (Zippo and Sterling was marked on the base of the lighter and travelled the full length of the base. 5 barrel hinges on the rest of the Zippo range also became the standard during 1950.
Steel cases are used during the Korean war. Steel continues to be used until 1954 when the factory returns to using chrome plated brass.
Leather wrap models are manufactured and stay in production until 1960. Unlike the full leather Zippo, this model is a standard case with a leather strip around the top and bottom portions of the lighter, leaving the rest of the lighters metalwork exposed.
4th Model Barcroft arrives and stays in production until 1979.
Zippo's first foray into the date coding of lighters takes place Using dot codes on the base.
Zippo Slims are manufactured and released to the public.
25th anniversary lighter released. Etching process comes into use for commercial trademarks on lighters.
2517191 patent is awarded to Zippo.
Insert logo is changed from horizontal orientation to vertical.
Zippo Pocket Knife is officially released, initially without the money clip. It should be noted however, that the pocket knife had been test marketed for an undisclosed number of years prior to it's official release.
Golf ball produced.
Belt Buckles are added to the Zippo range.
Patent Number removed from the lighter base in August 1967.
NASA Moon landing themes are developed. This theme continued on into the 1980's with the latest linked to the space shuttle. Greenskeeper pocket tool added to the Zippo Range.
Slim Zodiac series arrives.
Money Clip with knife arrives. Exactly the same design as the 1964 knife, but with the added advantage of a spring clip on the rear. Advertised as a money clip but often used as a belt clip.
Woodgrain effect case makes first appearance and the 40th anniversary Zippo is released.
Keyholder is first marketed.
Venetian styles produced.
Pocket Magnifier is manufactured. Denim series of lighters released. 200th Birthday of the nation bicentennial lighter is produced.
Scrimshaw released, Golden Elegance and Golden Turtle also released.
Letter opener released.
Gold electroplate released. Handilite released.
Desk set added to the Zippo range.
Zippo Pen and Pencil are added to the lineup, 50th Anniversary Zippo released and Zippo pipe lighter also goes on sale.
1st lighter marked 'Solid Brass' on the lid arrive in the marketplace.
Black powder coat model is released. Closely followed by Green, Blue, Burgundy and Grey models.
Camouflage model is introduced. Created by adding two further colour processes to an already green powder coat Zippo.
Elvis is added to the Zippo Range with 3 regular sized and 4 Slim models.
Zippo produces the 1932 Replica's. Although looking like the originals on first glance, close examination shows them to have far more in common with the current models than the model it is built to resemble in appearance. The main differences being, The replica has a normal insert (as fitted to every standard Zippo currently in production) with a piece of dead metal inserted in the case innards to stop the regular insert sliding too far into the case, and a regular hinge mechanism with an illusory external hinge. It was quickly realised that 1932 was the wrong year for the replica to based on, as a result a 1933 replica was produced.
Knife/Scissor combination set appears in the lineup. 5 new series sets are also released during this year:- Fabulous 50's, Super 60's, Wild west, 1st Anheuser-Busch and the presidential series.
Civil War series released. American Classics and Peterbilt Trucks are also added to the Zippo range.
Lighter set containing 5th, 10th, 25th, 50th, and 60th anniversary styled Zippo's released. Also the 60th Anniversary Commemorative Lighter and a Sterling with Gold inlay Commemorative lighter released this year.
1992 onwards gets a little too busy on the release front. Far too much to keep track in the time I have available for doing this site. I will eventually get around to adding things a year at a time, rather than in bulk as I have done here so far.
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