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17 Windproof Facts About Zippo Lighters

This iconic American brand has been around since 1933, but you might not know its rich history.

1. The original lighter was inspired by a clunkier Austrian version.

The idea for the windproof lighter emerged in Bradford, Penn. in 1932. George Blaisdell was smoking a cigarette on the porch of the Bradford Country Club when he noticed a local businessman using a strange lighter from Austria that had a protective top. Blaisdell asked the man why he used such a cumbersome lighter, and he replied, “Well, it works.”

Blaisdell decided to make his own version of the lighter. He called it a Zippo because he liked the sound of the word “zipper.” The first models were sold in 1933 for $1.95 (a little over $35 in today's money).

2. Getting off the ground took a while.

Even a special lighter needed help building momentum during the Depression. In 1936, Zippo ran its first ad in Esquire. The advertisement was a total flop—the company didn’t see any evidence of additional sales.

3. “The Fan Test” helped Zippo win converts.

The handy design of the Zippo lighter’s chimney helped it stay lit even in a strong breeze, and the company touted this feature in its early advertising. Ads challenged readers to use the “Fan Test”—holding a lit Zippo in front of a fan—to show just how windproof the lighter was.

4. World War II improved the company’s fortunes.

The company struggled for much of its first decade, but this changed when Zippo started selling to the military during the war. American troops could buy the lighters in Army Exchanges or Ship Stores, while soldiers in Zippo’s home of McKean County, Penn. got theirs for free. The men brought the lighters to the front lines and found the rugged design to be a great match for combat situations. As war correspondent Ernie Pyle famously put it, “The Zippo lighter is the most coveted thing on the battlefield.”

5. A fish chipped in on later marketing efforts.

The Zippo lighter’s tough design made it a favorite among soldiers, and the company cleverly played up this durability in its postwar advertising. A 1960 print ad recounted a story from a retired fish and game officer about a local fisherman who caught an 18-pound pike in a New York lake, only to discover a Zippo in its stomach. To the fisherman’s amazement, the lighter lit on his first try.

6. Every lighter is made in a single factory in Bradford, Penn.

Zippo sells 10 to 12 million lighters annually, and they all come from one place: The factory in Bradford, Penn., where the lighter was first invented. The company has less than 1000 employees.

7. Each Zippo lighter is backed with a lifetime warranty.

If you ever break your Zippo, you can get it repaired, regardless of when you purchased it. Buyers have definitely taken the company up on its offer; Zippo has made about eight million repairs to date.

8. A Zippo lighter can save your life.

One veteran told Zippo that his wife gave him the windproof lighter before he went to fight in the Vietnam War, and the pocketed Zippo stopped a bullet. Even in civilian life, the handy gadgets can be lifesavers. In 2010, a man was shot by a burglar but survived thanks to the Zippo in his pocket.

9. It has stood the test of time.

In 2010, the handy lighter was included on TIME’s list of the 100 greatest gadgets of all time.

10. The Zippo Car is missing ...

When Blaisdell was a kid, he saw a Lifesavers Pep-O-Mint car. The marketing vehicle stuck with him, and in 1947, he transformed a Chrysler Saratoga into the first Zippo Car. The company’s district managers drove the Zippo-equipped ride around the county until 1950. Unfortunately, the giant lighter was too heavy, and the Zippo Car’s tires kept blowing out.

The company eventually took the troubled car to Pittsburgh’s Toohey Motors to have the lighter get-up transferred to a sturdier Ford. The quoted price for this unusual request was so staggering that the company asked the shop to hold on to the car while execs weighed the cost. Then things apparently got a little busy for Zippo’s leadership team, and they forgot to give Toohey Motors a call.

It wasn’t until nearly 10 years later that Zippo finally called to check up on the car. They discovered that the auto shop had closed, and there was no sign of the vehicle anywhere.

11. But its spirit lives on ...

The original Zippo Car never reappeared, but in 1996, Blaisdell’s grandson George B. Duke decided to recreate it using another 1947 Chrysler Saratoga. However, this version is lighter than the original and boasts a sturdier suspension to keep the tires from blowing out.

12. Blaisdell donated two awesomely named bloodhounds to his town.

Zippo’s founder was generous with more than just lighters. In 1952, he donated two bloodhounds to Bradford’s emergency services team. For a marketing punch, the pups’ names were Zippo and Zipette.

13. You can visit the Zippo museum.

At the Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, visitors learn about Zippo’s history, visit the Zippo Repair Clinic, and check out an American flag made from 3000 Zippo lighters. You can also see both the first lighter and the 500 millionth lighter Zippo made. They look fairly similar, although the older one is a little bigger. The first lighter has a business card tied to the side. On it, Blaisdell wrote: “First Zippo lighter—do not touch.” According to Zippo's Corporate Media and Communications Manager Patrick Grandy, it's the most visited museum in northern Pennsylvania.

14. One Zippo isn’t enough for some fans.

There are 14 lighter-collecting clubs around the world. One community is called OTLS, or “On the Lighter Side.” Another American club is called Pocket Lighter and Pyro Gadgets. Zippo fandom spreads far and wide; there are even clubs in China and Japan.

15. China loves Zippo.

China is the largest international market for Zippo, so the company operates 14 stores scattered around the country.

16. Frank Sinatra was buried with one.

Also found in Ol’ Blue Eyes’ coffin: Camel cigarettes, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and dimes (in case he needs to make a payphone call).

17. You can smell like the Zippo lighter lifestyle.

“In Italy, Zippo is known as a premium lifestyle brand, so it made a lot of sense to launch a line of fragrances there,” Grandy says. The options are Zippo Original, On the Road, In the Blue, and Zippo—The Woman. Apparently, they smell quite good, and nothing like lighter fluid.

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Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in May
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Netflix is making way for loads of laughs in its library in May, with a handful of original comedy specials (Steve Martin, Martin Short, Carol Burnett, Tig Notaro, and John Mulvaney will all be there), plus the long-awaited return of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Here’s every new movie, TV series, and special making its way to Netflix in May.

MAY 1

27: Gone Too Soon

A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana

Amelie

Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1

Beautiful Girls

Darc

God's Own Country

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City

Mr. Woodcock

My Perfect Romance

Pocoyo & Cars

Pocoyo & The Space Circus

Queens of Comedy: Season 1

Reasonable Doubt

Red Dragon

Scream 2

Shrek

Simon: Season 1

Sliding Doors

Sometimes

The Bourne Ultimatum

The Carter Effect

The Clapper

The Reaping

The Strange Name Movie

Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2

MAY 2

Jailbreak

MAY 4

A Little Help with Carol Burnett

Anon

Busted!: Season 1

Dear White People: Volume 2

End Game

Forgive Us Our Debts

Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2

Manhunt

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey

No Estoy Loca

The Rain: Season 1

MAY 5

Faces Places

MAY 6

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale

MAY 8

Desolation

Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives

MAY 9

Dirty Girl

MAY 11

Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3

Evil Genius: the True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Spirit Riding Free: Season 5

The Kissing Booth

The Who Was? Show: Season 1

MAY 13

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife

MAY 14

The Phantom of the Opera

MAY 15

Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: Season 4

Grand Designs: Seasons 13 - 14

Only God Forgives

The Game 365: Seasons 15 - 16

MAY 16

89

Mamma Mia!

The 40-Year-Old Virgin

The Kingdom

Wanted

MAY 18

Cargo

Catching Feelings

Inspector Gadget: Season 4

MAY 19

Bridge to Terabithia

Disney’s Scandal: Season 7

Small Town Crime

MAY 20

Some Kind of Beautiful

MAY 21

Señora Acero: Season 4

MAY 22

Mob Psycho 100: Season 1

Shooter: Season 2

Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2

Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here

MAY 23

Explained

MAY 24

Fauda: Season 2

Survivors Guide to Prison

MAY 25

Ibiza

Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life

The Toys That Made Us: Season 2

Trollhunters: Part 3

MAY 26

Sara's Notebook

MAY 27

The Break with Michelle Wolf

MAY 29

Disney·Pixar's Coco

MAY 30

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4

MAY 31

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern

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20 Best Docuseries You Can Stream Right Now
A scene from Wild Wild Country (2018)
A scene from Wild Wild Country (2018)
Netflix

If your main interests are true crime and cooking, you’re in the middle of a Renaissance Age. The Michelangelos of nonfiction are consistently bringing stellar storytelling to twisty tales of murder and mayhem as well as luxurious shots of food prepared by the most creative culinary minds.

But these aren’t the only genres that documentary series are tackling. There’s a host of history, arts, travel, and more at your streaming fingertips. When you want to take a break from puzzling out who’s been wrongfully imprisoned, that is.

Here are the 20 best docuseries to watch right now, so start streaming.

1. WILD WILD COUNTRY (2018)

What happens when an Indian guru with thousands of American followers sets up shop near a small town in Oregon with the intent to create a commune? Incredibly sourced, this documentary that touches on every major civic issue—from religious liberty to voting rights—should be your new obsession. When you choose a side, be prepared to switch. Multiple times.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. FLINT TOWN (2018)

If your heart is broken by what’s going on in Flint, Michigan, be prepared to have that pain magnified and complicated. The filmmakers behind this provocative series were embedded with police in Flint to offer us a glimpse at the area’s local struggles and national attention from November 2015 through early 2017.

Where to watch it: Netflix

3. MAKERS: WOMEN WHO MAKE AMERICA (2013)

Narrated by Meryl Streep, this three-part series covers a half-century of American experience from the earliest days of second-wave feminism through Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination in the 1990s. Ellen DeGeneres, Condoleezza Rice, Sally Ride, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and more are featured, and the series got six more episodes in a second season.

Where to watch it: Makers.com

4. THE JINX (2015)

After the massive success of Serial in 2014, a one-two punch of true crime docuseries landed the following year. One was the immensely captivating study of power, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which chronicled the bizarre, tangled web of the real estate mogul who was suspected of several murders. The show, which could be measured in jaw-drops per hour, both registered real life and uniquely affected it.

Where to watch it: HBO

5. MAKING A MURDERER (2015)

The second major true crime phenom of 2015 was 10 years in the making. Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos uncovered the unthinkable story of Steven Avery, a man wrongfully convicted of sexual assault who was later convicted of murdering a different woman, Teresa Halbach. Not just a magnifying glass on the justice system and a potential small town conspiracy, it’s also a display of how stories can successfully get our blood boiling.

Where to watch it: Netflix

6. WORMWOOD (2017)

Speaking of good conspiracies: documentary titan Errol Morris turns his keen eye to a CIA project that’s as famous as it is unknown—MKUltra. A Cold War-era mind control experiment. LSD and hypnosis. The mysterious death of a scientist. His son’s 60-year search for answers. Morris brings his incisive eye to the hunt.

Where to watch it: Netflix

7. FIVE CAME BACK (2017)

Based on Mark Harris’s superlative book, this historical doc features filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro discussing the WWII-era work of predecessors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. Also narrated by Meryl Streep, it looks at how the war shaped the directors and how they shaped the war. As a bonus, Netflix has the war-time documentaries featured in the film available to stream.

Where to watch it: Netflix

8. THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY (2011)

If you can’t afford film school, and your local college won’t let you audit any more courses, Mark Cousins’s 915-minute history is the next best thing. Unrivaled in its scope, watching it is like having a charming encyclopedia discuss its favorite movies. Yes, at 15-episodes it’s sprawling, so, yes, you should watch it all in one go. Carve out a weekend and be ready to take notes on all the movies you want to watch afterward.

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

9. UGLY DELICIOUS (2018)

David Chang, the host of the first season of The Mind of a Chef, has returned with a cultural mash-up disguised as a foodie show. What does it mean for pizza to be “authentic”? What do Korea and the American South have in common? With his casual charm in tow, Chang and a variety of special guests explore people through the food we love to eat as an artifact that brings us all together.

Where to watch it: Netflix

10. JAZZ (2000)

A legend of nonfiction, Ken Burns has more than a few docuseries available to stream, including long-form explorations of the Civil War and baseball. His 10-episode series on jazz exhaustively tracks nearly a century of the formation and evolution of the musical style across the United States. You’ll wanna mark off a big section of the calendar and crank up the volume.

Where to watch it: Amazon

11. THE STAIRCASE (2004)

In 2001, author Michael Peterson reported to police that his wife had died after falling down a set of stairs, but police didn’t buy the story and charged him with her murder. Before the current true crime boom, before Serial and all the rest, there was Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s Peabody Award-winning docuseries following Peterson’s winding court case. The mystery at the heart of the trial and the unparalleled access Lestrade had to Peterson’s defense make this a must-see. (Netflix just announced that it will be releasing three new episodes of the series this summer.)

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

12. PLANET EARTH II (2016)

The sequel to the 2006 original is a real stunner. Narrated (naturally) by Sir David Attenborough, featuring music from Hans Zimmer, and boasting gorgeous photography of our immeasurably fascinating planet, this follow-up takes us through different terrains to see the life contained within. There are snow leopards in the mountains, a swimming sloth in the islands, and even langurs in our own urban jungle. Open your eyes wide to learn a lot or put it on in the background to zen out.

Where to watch it: Netflix

13. THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA (2009)

The cheapest way to visit Yosemite, Yellowstone, Muir Woods, and more. This Emmy-winning, six-part series is both a travelogue and a history lesson in conservation that takes up the argument of why these beautiful places should be preserved: to quote President Roosevelt, “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Where to watch it: Amazon

14. CONFLICT (2015)

Experience the too-often-untold stories of conflict zones through the lenses of world class photographers like Nicole Tung, Donna Ferraro, and João Silva. This heart-testing, bias-obliterating series is unique in its views into dark places and eye toward hope.

Where to watch it: Netflix

15. LAST CHANCE U (2016)

Far more than a sports documentary, the story of the players at East Mississippi Community College will have you rooting for personal victories as much as the points on the scoreboard. Many of the outstanding players on the squad lost spots at Division I schools because of disciplinary infractions or failing academics, so they’re seeking redemption in a program that wants them to return to the big-name schools. There are two full seasons to binge and a third on the way.

Where to watch it: Netflix

16. VICE (2013)

Currently in its sixth season, the series is known for asking tough questions that need immediate answers and giving viewers a street-level view of everything from killing cancer to juvenile justice reform. Its confrontational style of gonzo provocation won’t be everyone’s cup of spiked tea, but it’s filling an important gap that used to be filled by major network investigative journalists. When they let their subjects—from child soldiers suffering PTSD after fighting for ISIS to coal miners in Appalachia—tell their stories, nonfiction magic happens.

Where to watch it: HBO

17. CHEF’S TABLE (2015)

From David Gelb, the documentarian behind Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this doc series is a backstage pass to the kitchens of the world’s most elite chefs. The teams at Osteria Francescana, Blue Hill, Alinea, Pujol, and more open their doors to share their process, culinary creativity, and, of course, dozens of delicious courses. No shame in licking your screen.

Where to watch it: Netflix

18. NOBU’S JAPAN (2014)

For those looking to learn more about culture while chowing down, world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa guides guest chefs to different regions of Japan to ingest the sights, sounds, and spirits of the area before crafting a dish inspired by the journey. History is the main course, with a healthy dash of culinary invention that honors tradition.

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

19. THE SYSTEM (2014)

Should a jury decide if a child is sentenced to life in jail without parole? How can you go to jail for 20 years for shooting your gun inside your own home to deter thieves? These are just two of the questions examined by this knockout series about the conflicts, outdated methods, and biases lurking in America’s criminal justice system. Insightful and infuriating, it makes a strong companion to Ava DuVernay’s 13th.

Where to watch it: Al Jazeera and Sundance Now

20. BOBBY KENNEDY FOR PRESIDENT (2018)

It won’t be available until April 27 (so close!), but it’s well worth adding to your queue. This four-part series utilizes a wealth of footage, including unseen personal videos, to share the tragic story of Robert F. Kennedy’s run for president in the context of an era riven by racial strife. Watching this socio-political memorial told by many who were there (including Marian Wright and Congressman John Lewis), it will be impossible not to draw connections to the current day and wonder: What if?

Where to watch it: Netflix

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