Zippo/Case Visitors Center highlights an inspiring tale of enterprising success in the USA. The visitor center has attracted thousands of visitors from over 120 countries around the world since opening in 1997. It showcases products made in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
The ownership of the facility is clearly identifiable from route 219. Fourteen custom-made Zippo “street-lighters” line the drive leading to the structure. Hovering over its entrance is a 40-foot Zippo lighter with pulsating flame of neon. A 10-foot reproduction of a red bone handle, three-blade Case Gun Boat knife is also prominently displayed.
The Zippo/Case Visitors Center is a 15,000 square-foot facility with the Zippo/Case Museum and Zippo/Case Store. The museum exhibits display rare Zippo lighters and Case knives. Interactive media kiosks are used to identify fun and educational facts.
A video shows the history of Zippo, its products and people. It includes nostalgic scenes of Bradford and Zippo back in the 1950’s and Zippo television commercials of the 1960’s. A simulated American flag that is 7 by 11 feet in size was made from over 3.400 red, white and blue Zippo lighters.
The Zippo/Case Store is not an outlet store. It offers the full line of first quality products from Zippo Manufacturing and Case Cutlery. Zippo Repair Clinic technicians demonstrate Zippo founder George G. Blaisdell’s philosophy that “It works or we fix it free.”
Its inspiring history began in 1932 when George G. Blaisdell produced the first Zippo lighter. His lighter was based on an Austrian cigarette lighter of similar design. George G. Blaisdell named it “zippo”, thinking it sounded like the word “zipper”, yet more progressive.
A patent was awarded for the Zippo lighter on March 3.1936 and Zippo Manufacturing Company was founded. Since 1933 over 400,000,000 lighters have been produced. The basic mechanism of the Zippo lighter has remained unchanged.
A Zippo lighter is a refillable, metal lighter produced in Bradford Pennsylvania by Zippo Manufacturing Company. Thousands of designs and styles have been produced since their beginning, many for specific military divisions.
Zippo lighters became popular by the military during World War II. All production went to the U.S. military during the war, none for the consumer market. Due to shortages during war years the Zippo was made of steel rather than brass. Although production was not officially ordered by the military there was a heavy demand for Zippo lighters at military base exchanges.
One block north of Zippo’s Congress Street production plant is the visitor center in Bradford, PA. Its location is 1932 Zippo Drive, just off Route 219, 18 miles south of Salamanca NY. Bradford is 140 miles from Rochester, a 2.25-hour drive. Hours are Monday to Saturday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. with seasonal Sunday hours.
A visit to the Zippo/Case Visitors Center is a great excursion. It is an interesting museum with great souvenirs to purchase. It offers a view a slice of Americana, with free admission.