In the early 1930's, George G. Blaisdell refashioned a friends popular Austrian lighter of the time, to make it weatherproof. He fabricated a rectangular case and attached the top of the lighter to the case with a hinge. He retained the chimney design which protected the flame under adverse conditions. The result was a lighter that looked good and was easy to operate. The first Zippo lighter, currently displayed at the Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford US, was produced in early 1933 and sold for $ 1.95 each. And, from the very beginning, they were backed by Mr. Blaisdell’s unconditional lifetime guarantee – “It works or we fix it free. The name “Zippo” was created by Mr. Blaisdell. He liked the sound of the word “zipper” so he formed different variations of the word and settled on “Zippo,” deciding that it had a “modern” sound.
Zippo lighters became popular in the US military, especially during World War Two when Zippo "ceased production of lighters for consumer markets and dedicated all manufacturing to the U.S. military. The Zippo at that time was made of brass, but as this commodity was unobtainable due to the war, Zippo used steel during the war years. While the Zippo Manufacturing Company never had an official contract with the military, soldiers and armed forces personnel insisted that the supply stores carry this sought-after lighter. While it had previously been common to have Zippos with authorized badges, unit crests and division insignia, it became popular among the American soldiers of the Vietnam War, to get their Zippos engraved with personal mottos.
After World War II, the Zippo lighter became increasingly used in advertising by companies large and small through the 1960s. Many of the early advertising Zippo lighters are works of art painted by hand, and as technology has evolved, so has the design and finish of the Zippo lighter. To this day the basic mechanism of the Zippo lighter has remained unchanged.