As a fanatic for airflow streamline machine age design - I am starting a new column in blaze called “metal mania”. This series of articles will feature interesting post WW2 machine age solid block aluminum lighters. Solid block aluminum lighters are a result of post WW2 wartime production. After WW2 ended many servicemen came home with an idea to manufacture lighters. With millions of armed forces soldiers now smoking, the strategy was perfect but there were raw material limitations, especially in the UK and Europe.
Even though the war had ended, only aluminum was readily available to use to manufacture metal based lighters. There was an abundance of aluminum, especially in the USA as it was used to manufacture WW2 aircraft. Many of these aluminum lighters were manufactured by aircraft companies or machine shops and most are single invention ideas.
Solid block aluminum lighters are manufactured differently from most other lighters. Aluminum lighters are cut, machined, and drilled out of a solid block of aluminum. Solid Aluminum is lightweight, sturdy and durable which can be readily noticed when holding an aluminum lighter in your hand. As aluminum is the most important metal of the 20th century, unusual vintage aluminum lighters will certainly gain in popularity and demand.
Altogether there were hundreds of different models made in the late 1940’s in the USA– UK– France – Switzerland – Canada –Australia - and Germany with only a handful of models still being manufactured into the 1950’s or later.
One of my favorite aluminum models is the 1946 Lord Oxford windproof automatic. Although the name Lord Oxford sounds very British – the lighter was made in Lapeer Michigan by Oxford Pyle, with sales showroom on 5th Avenue in New York City. Oxford Pyle was an aircraft parts manufacturer. The Lord Oxford automatic was invented in 1946 by Robert Gans of Michigan - see patent.
The Lord Oxford features a streamline body design with finger touch updraft action and built up windbreaker. The Lord Oxford also comes in a manual version with a different snuffer design and also a manual table version.
The Lord Oxford automatic is mostly found in solid aluminum but anodized colored aluminum examples are known. The Lord Oxford was rarely used for promotional advertising but shown is a rare late 1940’s Coca-Cola version. The red anodized lighter resembles a vintage Coke soda machine.
The Lord Oxford retailed for $5 in the late 1940’s and is a quality automatic snap up mechanism. The Lord Oxford belongs in every serious automatic or aluminum lighter collection. If you do not own one, try to locate an unused example with felt carry pouch. You too will quickly become a “metal maniac”
Photos by Larry Tolkin