When you purchase an authentic Major League Baseball cap these days – just like the ones the players wear – there’s a chance that it will be made in China.
It bums me out, but I’m not going to let it rain on my Fourth of July parade. In fact, I’ve compiled a list of 10 U.S.-made products – including a couple with ties to Pennsylvania – that would be perfect for your next patriotic picnic.
Valley Forge flags: I’ll never wave the white flag on American manufacturing (cue Lee Greenwood). Nor has Wyomissing, Berks County-based Valley Forge, which started in 1882. Valley Forge flags are 100 percent U.S.-made, in South Carolina (the company closed its Womelsdorf plant in 2005). When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin placed the Stars and Stripes on the moon, it was a Valley Forge flag.
Lawn Chair USA: We bought two of these Georgia-made beauties a couple of years ago, mostly for watching youth baseball games. They’re retro cool but current enough to have (some models) beverage holders. The webbing breathes in a way those imported chairs-in-a-bag that everyone else has don’t.
Tervis tumblers: Speaking of beverages, family-owned-and-operated Tervis offers a lifetime guarantee on its plastic cups. What’s more, they reduce condensation and are dishwasher safe. North Venice, Fla.-based Tervis sells online and operates brick-and-mortar stores, including in Baltimore and Annapolis.
Zeroll ice cream scoops: No Fourth of July – heck, no summer day – is complete without a bowl of ice cream. In 1933, Sherman Kelly developed the non-mechanical ice cream scoop. It was made of cast aluminum, with fluid inside the handle that transfers heat from the user’s hand, warming the fluid, which in turn defrosts the ice cream dipper. Fort Pierce, Fla.-based Zeroll has its scoop displayed in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent design collection in New York City.
Fiesta dinnerware: Need a bowl for that ice cream? Fiesta’s art deco design debuted in 1936 at the Pittsburgh China & Glass Show, a pattern of concentric circles that came in five colors: red, yellow, cobalt blue, green, ivory. Homer Laughlin China Co. retired Fiesta in 1972 but, in partnership with the Bloomingdale’s retail chain, revived the line in 1986. Manufactured in Newell, W.Va., Fiesta comes out with a new color each year.
Wiffle Ball: Still made in Connecticut, the Wiffle bat and ball combo remains an unbelievable bargain: $3.99 at Weis Markets, for instance. It’s a great way to teach the concepts of baseball without needing a lot of space, and it gets the kiddies outside. Then there’s the “Indoor War,” aka the Ephrata Invitational Wiffle Ball Tournament, which has been an annual event since 1994.
Homage T-shirts: Most of the shirts offered by Columbus-Ohio-based Homage tell a tale. There’s the one about 10-cent beer night at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, which led to a riot and a forfeit of the baseball game by the hometown Indians.
Ryan Vesler, who founded Homage in 2007, told Entrepreneur.com: “I’m constantly intrigued by learning new things and finding out about the engaging moments and quirky personalities behind the stories all fans know,” he said “The surface-level stuff is team logos or slogans. We want to be less obvious than that. We want to differentiate this company and our brand.”
Ebbets Field Flannels: You never have to wonder whether an EFF hat is made in the U.S.A. The Seattle-based company reproduces classic minor league and Negro League caps and jerseys. The former have soft crowns and just get better with age.
Zippo lighters: Contrary to the assertion by Greg Booth, Zippo president and CEO, that “Everyone has a Zippo story,” I don’t. But I love the rest of his quote about the Bradford, Pa.-based brand: “It’s an attitude, a lifestyle — it’s an American icon, like a July 4th backyard barbeque.” How cool is this Yeungling version?
Diamond Sparklers: The sole remaining sparkler maker in the United States, Diamond started in 1922 as Acme Sparklers (its biggest customer was a cartoon coyote, I presume). Phantom Fireworks of Youngstown, Ohio, bought Diamond in 1985. “Diamond Sparkler struggles each year to make a profit,” said Bruce Zoldan, president of Phantom Fireworks. “But I just can’t envision something as American as sparklers, with its association with the 4th of July, not being made in this country.”
Happy Birthday, America!