During the 1990s, Bob Seger lent Chevy his popular song “Like a Rock” to promote an American brand and help protect the country’s autoworkers. The overwhelmingly successful advertising campaign was dubbed “The Heartbeat of America” and Seger’s resistance to commercializing his music was only overcome by his sense of patriotism.
Back then, consumers checked products for the Made in the USA label, believing they were the best that money could buy. After decades of outsourcing everything from customer service to manufacturing, the rumblings of American-made appear to be recapturing the imagination once again.
Whether tool retailers such as Home Depot and ACE Hardware are pushing Made in the USA or it’s just on people’s minds, Estwing has one of the larger displays in the tool aisle. This historic American company was founded by a Swedish immigrant in Rockford, Illinois, during the 1920s. The tool and axe line earned a well-deserved reputation for ranking among the finest brands. Their beautiful signature leather grips are bound around one-piece of hardened steel and have long been the gold standard. As the company nears the century mark, it has stayed true to its Illinois roots. Unlike today’s cheap imports, Estwing crafts products that are passed down from generation to generation. Other excellent Made in the USA tool products include:
- Channellock pliers (Meadville, Pennsylvania)
- Leatherman multitools (Portland, Oregon)
- Vaughn and Bushnell hammers (Peoria, Illinois)
- Lie-Nielsen Toolworks bench planes (Warren, Maine)
Any conversation about American-made firearms must start with one question. “Do you feel lucky?” Clint Eastwood etched the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum into our imagination in the Dirty Harry movies. Since 1852, the gun-maker has been producing the highest quality products from plants located in Massachusetts, Maine and Tennessee. The company’s small, 5-shot snub nose models are also highly coveted today.
The pop culture icon leading gun talk these days is Rick from The Walking Dead. His Colt Python is a signature weapon of the TV series. The large, .357 Magnum hit the market in 1955 but dropped to special order in 1999 and became only a collector’s item in 2005. The Connecticut-based Colt company has been on shaky financial ground, but remains based in Hartford, Connecticut.
Whether you have a child or are a child at heart, not all American play things come from that big Asian country. In fact, many of the most fun and innovative ones are Made in the USA.
- Wiffle Ball has been as American as mom and apple pie since the 1953 and the children’s version of the great American pastime are made in Shelton, Connecticut.
- Slinky was accidently invented by a U.S. Navy engineer. When the toy launched, it sold 400 in 90 minutes and is still made in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.
- Crayola Crayons are predominately made in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where they started. The plant reportedly produces 12 million crayons per day.
There’s little doubt that on a level playing field, American innovation prevails. That’s why Harley Davidson recently spent a day on the White House lawn and stands alone at the top of the motorcycle food chain. With plants in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Wisconsin, they are the Made in the USA standard of excellence. Although foreign-built two-wheelers have never posed a real challenge, Indian enjoyed on-and-off success and Victory put out some nice bikes. But banging heads with Harley closed Indian and has Victory winding down operations after 20 years. Harley has been a world leader since 1903 — it’s hard to compete with an American original.
The resurgence of Made in the USA brands has little to with being inexpensive and everything to do with being the best.