2019 Family Meetup travel blog

Zippo/Case Museum

1947 Chrysler Zippo Car

American flag made of Zippo lighters

“Zippo” by Cesar - a block of crushed Zippo’s

Commemorative edition of Zippo for the 50th anniversary of D-Day - 1994

The Zippo from Ernie Pyle’s story

I’m having a hell of a time uploading pictures, so I’ll probably use Facebook until I figure out what the problem is. If we’re not friends on FB, look me up if you want to see my images of this trip.

Today was a 2 stop day. We visited the Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford. We didn't know what to expect, but it turned out to be a pretty interesting couple of hours. The visit starts out with the Zippo car parked outside museum where the street lights are giant Zippo lighters. The is no entrance fee, but you must pass through the Zippo/Case shop before entering and after leaving the museum. The story of Zippo lighters began in the 1930's with the development of the classic lighrter when George Blaisdell, inventor and founder of Zippo, saw an Austrian lighter that he knew he could improve on. In 1935 he introduced a small rectangular lighter with a hinged lid that could be operated with one hand and the rest is history. The history of the lighter is closly entwined with the US military and WWII. In 1941, Zippo ceased production of lighters for consumer markets and dedicated all production to the U.S. military. This led to the steel-case Zippo lighter with black crackle finish. The fact that millions of American military personnel carried the lighter into battle was a significant catalyst in establishing Zippo as an American icon throughout the world. Supplying the military market resulted in full production for the plant and enabled Zippo to become financially strong and made it a viable company. There are a couple of interesting stories about Zippo lighters from the war.

One of the stories involves Ernie Pyle, the famous war correspondent that was killed in 1945 in the Pacific theater. While aboard the USS Cabot, an aircraft carrier, awaiting the next action a young naval office was pumping him for information on where the ship was headed. He asked the officer for his Zippo and scratched something on the bottom. He slipped the lighter in the officers pocket and made him promis to not look at it until the orders were revealed. With the announcement of the the ships next destination over the loudspeakers, he pulled out the lighter and looked at the bottom and the word "Tokyo" was scratched on it. The Cabot would participate in the first all out carrier based assault of the Japanese mainland.

Another was related to the D-Day landings in June 1944. Walter Nadler from New Jersey was involved with the landings on Utah Beach. While crossing the Channel to Normandy, he inscribed "June 6, 1944 0630 France" and his name on the case of his Zippo. During the landing he lost the lighter in the sand. The lighter was lost until 1992 when a Zippo employee found it in a desk drawer. No one at Zippo knew how the lighter ended up in a desk. For the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Zippo conducted a media search in the US and France for any information on Nadler. They were able to get information on Nadler from several sources, but he had died in 1990. Apparently Zippo was not able to find out how the lighter ended up in a desk drawer.

After leaving Zippo we went to the Kinzua Bridge. It was a railroad trestle that spanned Kinzua Creek valley. The bridge was 301 feet tall (taller than the Statue of Liberty) and 2,052 feet long. It was originally built of wrought iron in 1882 and was billed as the “Eight Wonder of the World” as the tallest bridge in the world. It was rebuilt using steel in 1900 so heavier trains could cross. Commercial service stopped in 1959 and it was sold to Pennsylvania in 1963. In 1982 it was recognized as National Civil Engineering Landmark. Restoration of the old bridge began in 2002, before it was finished most of its structure collapsed during a F1 tornado in 2003. What remained of the bridge was rebuilt and opened as a skywalk in 2011. There’s a glass floor section at the observation platform where you can stand over one of the highest points on the skywalk.

We’ll be moving further east along US 6 for a couple of days. I hope to be able to visit Cherry Springs State Park for some night photography. The park is an official Dark Skies Park. Stay tuned.

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