By Dave Crawley

BRADFORD, Pa. (KDKA) — The 500 millionth Zippo lighter was introduced at the plant in Bradford Tuesday morning.

Hundreds of employees passed the milestone lighter from hand to hand. Each has played a role in producing a half-billion lighters in a span of 80 years.

Zippo owner George Duke held the lighter aloft, as the crowd applauded.

“The 500 millionth lighter is going to light a little flame,” he announced. “May I have you all join me?”

Duke’s grandfather, George Blaisdell, came up with the idea for a lighter with a hinged top, producing them on the second floor of a Bradford garage.

The inventor’s grandson says the name originated with zippers made in Meadville.

“Being that Grandpa liked names that begin with ‘Z,’ he took the ‘E-R’ off of zipper and put an ‘O’ on it. It was a very catchy name and certainly a name everybody could remember.”

The Zippo mystique lures collectors from all over the world to swap meets in Bradford and to a museum dedicated to the world’s most famous lighter.

Zippo has had starring roles in many a movie. And just about every GI had one during World War II.

At 500 million lighters and counting, Zippo is still clicking.

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