When I was a kid, our American-made Christmas tree lights lasted so many seasons that the paint on the screw-in bulbs started to wear off. In Lewiston, Maine, near where I grew up, there was a company that made glass Christmas balls.
It’s harder to find U.S.-made products than it was decades back, but it’s not impossible. It takes some effort, but isn’t that a big part of getting just the right gift for someone?
Giving a U.S.-made gift is an act of generosity to the recipient, of course, but it also helps to create American jobs. If every American spent an extra $3.33 on U.S.-made products, according to MadeInTheUSA.com, it would create almost 10,000 jobs.
So check your list, and check it twice, to see whether you have any American-made products on it. If not, I’m here to help, like Rudolph on a foggy night. Here’s a sample of domestic products that can pretty much cover you from head to toe.
BLK PINE WORKSHOP
From the home of grunge and Frappucinos, Blk Pine is a self-described “creative workshop based in Seattle with a desire to preserve the tradition of producing quality goods manufactured within the USA.” Those products include backpacks, tote bags, briefcases and beanies.
Reading-based Bills should have an apostrophe in its name because it was founded by a guy named Bill Thomas. The company’s website describes how he “found a connection in a pair of original World War II khakis he discovered at an Army surplus store while in college. They were remarkably comfortable, deep pocketed, and put together to withstand just about anything, including world conflict.” Thomas quit his advertising job in Chicago and started Bills in 1990. The product line is much more than khakis.
In 1932, Max Gitman opened Ashland Shirt & Pajama Co. in Ashland, Pa., about one hour northeast of Hershey. The company operated as a contract sewer until the birth of the Gitman Bros. brand in 1978. Gitman makes shirts in Ashland, where it has an outlet store, and makes ties in Pilot Mountain, N.C.
Cleveland rocks, and so does the suburb of Parma Heights as the world headquarters of Drifter. What started in 1977 as a parachute rigging business evolved into a company that makes a bunch of tough, hand-made bags.
Tough also describes the wallets and tote bags designed and made in Maine by Flowfold. As a teen, Charley Friedman sewed sailboat sails (presumably by the seashore). When his old leather wallet fell apart, he put his Yankee ingenuity to work and made a new wallet out of scrap sailcloth. Voila, the beginning of Flowfold, which describes itself as an “ecologically conscious lifestyle company.”
I think Charley would be fast friends with Derek Shaw, who started Waskerd in 2011 to make wallets and other hand-made leather goods. From a recent Philadelphia Weekly article: “In our current lexicon, ‘handmade’ is often synonymous with ‘shoddy.’ Shaw wants to reach back to when something handmade lasted your entire life.”
A Pennsylvania icon, Woolrich devotes a tab on its website to American products. It doesn’t get much more authentic than this woolen blanket woven at the company’s mill in Woolrich, Pa.
Remember when not every toy involved batteries or electricity? Unlike Hermey from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Tom Kuhn is a dentist and likes to make toys. His namesake yo-yo company makes all of its products in the United States, most of them in Maine.
I have been a fan of Detroit since my hero Mark Fidrych of the Tigers burst on the scene in 1976. I drove to Detroit by myself just to see Tiger Stadium on its last weekend. So I’m rooting for Detroit’s comeback, which Shinola is helping along by making watches, bicycles and leather goods in the city.
CHRISTMAS IN AMERICA
I’m partial to natural Christmas trees, but if an artificial tree is your choice or necessity, family-owned Christmas in America makes them at a factory in Newburgh, N.Y. (UPDATE on Dec. 19, 2016: Christmas in America appears to have gone out of business.)
Crab Pot Trees of North Carolina makes artificial trees out of green-coated crab trap mesh.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the commercialism of Christmas, not to mention a “Seinfeld” fan, you might consider an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, proudly manufactured in Milwaukee.
Operating since 1923, Wendell August is America’s oldest and largest forge. The Grove City, Pa., company makes “hand-wrought ornamental metalware and elegant giftware.” This tab is dedicated to items created from the roof of the old Civic Arena, the late home of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Once the “Sock Capital of the World,” Fort Payne, Ala., has suffered the slings and arrows of outsourcing. But second-generation sock maker Gina Locklear has demonstrated that Fort Payne has plenty of kick left. Her brand, Zkano, makes organic cotton socks.