October 30, 2015
Lutron Electronics: Softening the Lights of America’s Homes Since 1961
When physicist Joel Spira launched Lutron Electronics in 1961, it’s doubtful he realized the impact his small company in Coopersburg, Penn. would have on America’s electrical evolution. It all started with Spira’s invention of the world’s first solid-state device that enabled people to vary the intensity of the lights in their homes.
Photo credit: facebook.com/Lutron
A Switch in Innovation
In the late 1950s, dimming lights was a complex and costly affair, requiring bulky rheostats that absorbed a lot of energy and generated a great deal of heat. Therefore, dimming was limited to theater lighting, and not something most people would have considered for their own homes.
That all changed in 1959, when Spira developed a solid-state dimmer that could replace the light switch in a standard residential wallbox. The solid-state dimmer or “dimmer switch” made dimming, a feature once limited to theater lighting and similar needs, available to every home.
A “Solid-State” of American History
Over the years, Lutron’s business has continued to grow dramatically, both domestically and internationally. Despite its growth, Lutron continues to manufacture its products in the U.S. and the Coopersburg, Penn. company is now a global enterprise with more than 15,000 products that can control lights and temperatures in homes and buildings of all sizes.
Today, Spira’s first technological innovations, including an early version of the original solid-state dimmer, can be found on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in the company of inventions by Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.
To learn more about Lutron, visit lutron.com.
October 23, 2015
Wiffle Ball: Soaring Through America Since 1953
It may not be considered America’s pastime, but since the early 1950s Wiffle Ball has been an American staple. Started in 1953 by David N. Mullany, Wiffle Ball Inc. has changed very little since it first debuted its original products, including its commitment to producing the highest quality product at an affordable price, all right here in the U.S.
Photo credit: facebook.com/WiffleBallInc
A Curve in American Manufacturing
It all started in the summer of 1953 when Mullany watched his 12-year-old son and a friend play a game of baseball in their backyard using a perforated plastic golf ball and a broomstick handle. After days of trying to throw curve balls, Mullany’s son complained of his arm hurting. In an attempt to safeguard his son’s pitching arm from injury, Mullany designed a ball using plastic parts from a nearby factory that curved easily when thrown. And Wiffle Balls have been soaring through backyards ever since.
Over the years, Wiffle Ball, Inc. has refused several attempts by larger toy companies to buy the business and make the product cheaper overseas. Now in its third generation, the family-owned and operated company remains committed to providing quality, American-made products to its customers. For more than 60 years, Wiffle Ball has been making its bats and balls in the U.S. at the same Shelton, Conn. factory into which the company first moved back in 1959. And it plans on keeping it that way, too.
“We’re very happy producing our products here,” said David J. Mullany, president of Wiffle Ball Inc. in an article. “No reason we can’t make a top-quality product here at an affordable price and stay in business.”
To learn more, visit wiffle.com.
October 16, 2015
Slinky: America’s Most Recognized Toy
In 1943, Richard James, a naval mechanical engineer stationed at Philadelphia’s William Cramp & Sons Shipyards, was developing springs that could keep sensitive ship equipment steady at sea. After knocking one of the springs from a shelf, James noticed that the spring began to move strangely. James watched as “the spring ‘stepped’ in a series of arcs to a stack of books, to a tabletop, and to the floor, where it re-coiled itself and stood upright.” The spring, which never functioned at sea the way it was intended, was reborn as a toy called Slinky.
Photo credit: poof-slinky.com
Springing into Action
In 1945, Richard and his wife Betty borrowed $500 to begin manufacturing a small number of Slinkys. Though little interest was shown in his creation at first, a Gimbel’s department store in Philadelphia agreed to let James demonstrate the product just before Christmas. Slinky was a hit. The first 400 units were sold within 90 minutes, and the rest is history.
Today, Slinky is one of the best-selling American-made toys with more than 300 million units sold in its first 60 years. Slinkys are sold at more than 35,000 retailers, but are made out of one manufacturing facility. Slinky has been made in the U.S. since its inception in the 1940s, in the same town, Hollidaysburg, Pa., where the first Slinky was made more than 70 years ago.
Created by accident, Skinky has effortlessly glided its way down millions of household steps all across the world and into its current place as one of the most famous toys in American history.
Learn more at poof-slinky.com.
October 9, 2015
Duraflame Sparks American Manufacturing
In 1968, when California Cedar Products Company was producing pencils, it found it could recycle the sawdust created in the wood manufacturing process by mixing it with petroleum wax to make a whole new type of fireplace log. The company named the new product the Duraflame firelog.
What originally began as an attempt to recycle leftover sawdust has sparked the firelog industry in America and led to the creation of Duraflame, Inc., America’s leading manufacturer of firelogs.
Photo credit: duraflame.com
In the early 1970’s, Duraflame’s first ever wood-wax blend of the Duraflame firelog quickly revolutionized what people burned in their fireplaces. The firewood alternative provided convenience and cleaner burning benefits that gained popularity among consumers. It also helped Duraflame’s sales takeoff like wildfire.
By the mid 1970’s, Duraflame firelogs had captured 50% of the artificial firelog market in the U.S. In 1986, Duraflame, Inc. became independently owned and operated out of its headquarters in Stockton, Calif.
Today, the company is still headquartered in Stockton and controls more than 40 percent of the firelog market, selling millions of firelogs each year. And every single Duraflame product is made right here in America out of its two manufacturing plants in California and Kentucky, which employ more than 200 people. Between the two plants, they produce over 14,000 miles of firelogs each year.
For more than 40 years, Duraflame has been enhancing the way people “enjoy one of man’s oldest discoveries” and has become the best friend of fireplace owners, barbecuers, bonfire-goers and s’more lovers all across America.
To learn more, visit duraflame.com.
October 2, 2015
Stetson: Outfitting America Since 1865
In the early 1860s, unable to enlist to serve in the Civil War due to poor health, John B. Stetson headed out West to Pikes Peak, Colo., a gold-mining hub where he thought he might be able to find fortune.
While Stetson never struck gold, he did create a way to keep shield himself from the daytime sun, wind, and rain. Using felted fur shavings, Stetson created a wide-brimmed, water repellent hat to protect himself from the elements. It was at that moment that the John B. Stetson Hat Company was created and an icon of the American West was made.
Photo credit: facebook.com/Stetson
The World’s Largest Hat Maker
In 1865, Stetson left Colorado and went to Philadelphia to set up a factory where he created the original “Boss of the Plains,” a Western hat that would become the cornerstone of Stetson’s hat business, and one that is still in production today. Stetson soon became synonymous with American-made quality, durability, beauty and the cowboy.
By the early 20the century, Stetson owned the world’s largest hat factory in Philadelphia. The 25 building factory covered nine acres of ground, employed 5,400 people and was producing more than 3.3 million hats a year – all right here in America.
More than Just a Prop
Since the beginning, the quality craftsmanship of a Stetson hat has made it a popular accessory among celebrities and Hollywood film makers. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Stetsons graced the heads of Colonel William F. Cody “Buffalo Bill”, Calamity Jane, Will Rogers and Annie Oakley. More recently, Stetsons have been featured in hit movies like Indiana Jones, Urban Cowboy and Django Unchained. But a Stetson hat is so much more than just a prop in a movie.
“Stetson isn’t only great because of who has worn them,” says Ricky Bolin, general manager of Hatco, which manufactures Stetson Hats in Garland, Texas, in an article. “Stetson is also great because they’ve been made in America continuously for the last 150 years following the same principles laid out all that time ago. We still follow them today.”
More than 36 hand-finishing steps go into the creation of a Stetson hat. Much of the original tooling and machinery from the early twentieth century is still used daily in its Garland, Texas factory today.
Long symbolizing the hardworking frontiers of the American West, Stetson has evolved into a legendary brand, offering premium, American-made quality cowboy hats, western wear and cowboy boots.
To learn more about Stetson hats, visit stetson.com.