Zippo Will Light Your Fire

By Anne McCollam

January 18, 2019 4 min read

Q: I have enclosed a photo of a Zippo cigarette lighter that belonged to my grandfather. We found it when going through my grandparents' things after they passed away. It is a rectangular shape, measures 1.5 by 2 inches and has a brushed surface. On the front is my grandfather's name, Jim. On the bottom are the words "Zippo — Bradford — Pa. — III." I'm not sure how long he had the lighter. I just remember seeing it when I was a child.

We are curious about its history, maker and if it has any value as a collectible.

A: In the summer of 1932, George G. Blaisdell was on the terrace at the Bradford Country Club in Bradford, Pennsylvania. He watched a fellow member attempting to light his cigarette with a two-piece lighter that was made in Austria. The lighter was hard to hold and awkward but appeared to be wind-resistant. Blaisdell saw an opportunity and acquired the rights to the lighter. He modified its design, made the case rectangular and hinged the lid. It could be lit with only one hand. In 1932, he mass-produced the lighter and named it Zippo. He was inspired by the word "zipper," which was a recent invention. Blaisdell also believed the name Zippo had a modern sound, and that people would easily remember it. During World War II, his company provided all military persons in Bradford with lighters. He also shipped Zippo lighters to all military bases, ship stores and Post Exchange stores. Blaisdell's lighters have become an American icon, and vintage ones are collectible.

The model number "III" was made around 1968 and would be worth $15 to $25.

Q: This mark is on the bottom of a porcelain pitcher that I have. It is decorated with pastel flowers and berries and is in perfect condition. The height is 6 inches, and the diameter is 7 inches. It has been in our family for many years, and my teenage daughter recently asked me what it is used for, how old it is and where it was made. I told her I don't know anything about its background.

I hope you can fill in the blanks.

A: Your pitcher can be used for either lemonade or cider and was made by The Ceramic Art Company in Trenton, New Jersey. The firm was founded in 1894 and became part of the Lenox China Company in 1906.

Your pitcher is circa 1900, and its value is in the area of $50 to $75.

(SET CAPTION) The Zippo lighter is an American icon. (END IMAGE)
 The Ceramic Art Company was founded in 1894.
The Ceramic Art Company was founded in 1894.

Address your questions to Anne McCollam, P. O. Box 247, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Items of a general interest will be answered in this column. Due to the volume of inquiries, she cannot answer individual letters. To find out more about Anne McCollam and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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