Centuries of Success
Many American brands have been creating the same products, from comfortable blankets to hardy cast-iron skillets, for generations. While there's been some advancement in the technology used to make these products, the brands have never strayed from their roots and continue to manufacture the well-loved goods that they created more than a century ago—much to America's delight.
1. Libbey Glassware
As one of America’s leading glassware and tableware manufacturers, The Libbey Glass Company had its start in East Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1818. Among many achievements, it was the first to develop machine-blown glass (1907) and the first to develop a computer-controlled blower for stemware (1995).
Today, Libbey is best known for drink ware like these Polaris Glasses and Tumblers. Although glass technology has changed quite a bit over the past 100 years, Libbey has managed to keep up with the times (and lead the way) with its glasses and home accessories.
2. Bissell’s Big Green
In 1876, crockery shop owner Melville R. Bissell invented the first-ever carpet sweeper, which he patented and transformed into the Bissell business. The company specialized in floor-cleaning products, inventing the manual carpet shampooer in 1956 and the deep-cleaning carpet machine in 1979.
Nowadays, Bissell makes carpet cleaners for homes and businesses, like the Big Green Deep Cleaning Professional Grade Carpet Cleaner, a fan favorite with Amazon shoppers.
3. Pendleton Blankets
From its home base in Oregon, Pendleton has been "Weaving America's Spirit" since 1909, after founder Thomas L. Kay first established the mill that would launch an enduring American lifestyle brand. Today, though much has changed about the sixth-generation, family-owned company, its original mill continues to craft the colorful wool blankets responsible for its early and continuing success.
Customers now enjoy a greater selection than ever before among Pendleton blankets, and a standout in its current line are their National Parks blankets, with colors and patterns that channel the history and splendor of America's outdoor playgrounds.
Related: The Best Blankets You Can Buy Online
4. Radio Flyer Wagon
Perhaps the quintessential symbol of American innocence, the Radio Flyer (named for the twin technological marvels of its day) owes its existence to pure chance. At the turn of the century, company founder Antonio Pasin was working as a carpenter in Chicago, transporting his tools from site to site via small wagons of his own devising. Soon, customers began requesting to purchase wagons of their own, and Pasin realized he was onto something.
From then on, though the classic Radio Flyer has undergone design changes, its bright-red, stamped-steel body has been a virtual constant, remaining as recognizable today as it was for our grandparents' generation.
5. 20 Mule Team Borax
20 Mule Team Borax has been a cleaning staple since the 1800s. The main ingredient, sodium borate, was discovered in Death Valley, California, in 1872, and less than 10 years later, the Pacific Coast Borax Company began selling the product in stores as 20 Mule Team Borax.
While borax was first used as a laundry booster, innovative DIYers have since touted its effectiveness as a bathroom or kitchen cleaner, as well as a pest deterrent and garden helper.
6. Sherwin-Williams Paint
In 1866, Henry Sherwin and Edward Williams formed a partnership with the goal to make ready-mix paint attainable for the average American. The two men created the highest standard for the paint market. Today, the company is responsible for painting some of America’s most famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hollywood Hills sign, and the White House—while still selling consistently good paint for the typical homeowner.
In keeping with their ready-mix beginnings, the company now sells their SuperPaint Interior Acrylic Latex line, which combines paint and primer in one product for a lasting finish in less time. DIYers can find a wide range of Sherwin-Williams paint colors and painting products in stores throughout the country.
7. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
This pantry staple first came to be in 1846, right in the kitchen of John Dwight. He and co-inventor Dr. Austin Church packaged the first supplies in paper bags by hand. Soon after, the bicarbonate of soda—or baking soda—took on the trademark Arm & Hammer, which has since become a world-renowned name and logo thanks to its multitude of uses for household cleaning and hygiene, not to mention baking.
8. Colgate Toothpaste
Though the company found its start with the manufacturing and sale of starch, soap, and candles back in 1806, what most consumers know Colgate for today—minty-fresh toothpaste—didn't come about until nearly 70 years later. Aromatic toothpaste appeared in jars in 1873 and then collapsible tubes (a predecessor to today's squeeze-style packaging) 23 years later. Today, the brand offers its basic toothpaste, plus products with specific formulas for tasks like teeth whitening or cavity protection.
flickr.com via Mark Tighe
9. Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet
The small town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee, has seen many changes since 1896, but at least one thing remains constant: It's still the home to one of America's most iconic cookware brands. Founded by Joseph Lodge, Lodge Manufacturing has been producing quality cast-iron skillets for generations.
The secret to the skillets’ enduring popularity is likely due to this history and an alchemy of quality, versatility, and cost. Built to last a lifetime, a Lodge skillet, such as its 10¼-inch preseasoned cast-iron skillet, can cook over virtually any heat source, whether gas, induction, grill, or campfire.
10. Rit Dye
The dye that Grandma used to whiten shoes is the same one people today can use to tie-dye shirts, dip-dye curtains, or stain untreated wood and wicker. Rit dye became available to the American public during World War I at a time when consumers were cut off from popular European dyes.
Americans went wild for the simple yet effective dye, and Rit has been a household name ever since.
Today, Rit is available both in powdered or liquid form and in a variety of colors, like this Hyacinth Jacinthe, which is close to the Pantone color of the year for 2022, Very Peri.
11. Caswell-Massey Luxury Soap
Caswell-Massey was in existence long before today’s booming skin-care and wellness trend. Founded in 1752 in Newport, Rhode Island, the apothecary and perfumery company is considered the very first luxury beauty and fragrance brand in America. Fans of its soaps, shaving creams, and colognes have included everyone from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to the Rolling Stones.
While many new companies are just beginning to develop green products, Caswell-Massey’s lines already are free of parabens, sulfates, and artificial additives, like this plant-based lavender luxury bar.
12. Ames Digging Shovel
In 1774, Captain John Ames began crafting the first American metal shovels in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The rest is history—quite literally. Ames shovels and an expanded line of tools have been used to help build the B&O Railroad, the Statue of Liberty, the Panama Canal, and the Empire State Building, just to name a few.
We think if these durable tools are good enough for those iconic structures, then they should be good for our backyards. Today’s digging shovel comes with a fiberglass handle for a lighter but still sturdy feel.
13. Crane and Co. Thank-You Cards
Sure, a lot of communication nowadays happens through emails, texts, and tweets, but no one can deny the appeal of a handwritten note. Stephen Crane understood this way back in 1770 when he opened the Liberty Paper Mill in Massachusetts. During that period, his paper was used for newspapers, currency, and of course, stationery.
Crane and Co. has evolved with the times and continues making quality and stylish paper on which individuals can express themselves personally, like these classic hand-engraved thank-you note cards designed for new moms and dads.
14. Pfaltzgraff Dinnerware
With the aspiration to start a successful pottery business, Johann George Pfaltzgraff and his family immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1833. Johann began his company by crafting ceramics that the surrounding farming community could use, like pitchers, plates, and jugs. With help from his sons and nephew, the family business expanded.
Decades later, you can certainly say the Pfaltzgraff family achieved its dream. Today, you can find classic Pfaltzgraff housewares in many households. This elegant filigree dinnerware set serves four special guests.
15. Burpee Seeds
Atlee Burpee ditched his parents’ dreams of him becoming a doctor to start his own poultry and livestock mail order company. The innovative Burpee soon added seeds and plants to his offerings to make his business more viable. Through ups and downs, the Burpee brand has continued to prosper and be relied upon by gardeners of all experience levels.
Today, whether you’re looking for vegetable seeds, a new hybrid flower, or the tools you need to get your seeds started, you can bet Burpee has you covered. This culinary classics collection holds 10 packets of Burpee kitchen herb seeds.
16. Carhartt Bib Overalls
In 1889, founder and company namesake Hamilton Carhartt began making long-lasting bibs for hard-working railroad workers. The company increased its manufacturing efforts to support railroad workers throughout the 1890s and eventually expanded its product line to include tough workwear and accessories for men, women, and even kids.
Today, DIYers still can protect their clothes underneath a loose-fitting cotton duck canvas bib from Carhartt. From plumbing work to car maintenance to hunting, the overalls can hold up. You even can find Carhartt bibs with lining and in several colors. These classic men’s bibs have quilt lining for insulation to keep wearers covered and warm when working outdoors.
17. John Deere Lawn Tractor
Founder John Deere began his career as a blacksmith in Illinois and applied his trade to designing the first commercially successful steel plow on which the company was based. That was back in 1837, and he used a broken sawblade in his first plow because he believed the shiny surface would better shed sticky soil than the cast-iron models of the day.
The name “John Deere” still equates with farm and lawn equipment quality and innovation today. Eventually expanding to additional agriculture equipment, along with machines for forestry and construction, the company also introduced lawn and garden tractors for home consumers. Today, models like this 42-inch, 22-horsepower model consider ergonomics and power to make mowing large properties a breeze.
18. L.L. Bean Field Coat
L.L. Bean began in 1912 when Leon Leonwood Bean designed his rubber-soled Bean Boot. In 1921, Admiral Donald MacMillan outfitted his Arctic expedition with the iconic boots. In fact, L.L. Bean was all about the boots until 1924, when it introduced the classic Field Coat. Eventually, its offerings expanded into hunting, fishing, and camping clothing and accessories.
In 1951, L.L. Bean opened its first ladies’ department when the founder’s daughter-in-law convinced him women needed products to browse in the stores as well. Today, the company offers a version of its field coat in this women’s flannel-lined barn coat. It now carries clothing, footwear, bags, and travel accessories for men, women, and kids.
19. Whirlpool Washer
The first Whirlpool clothes washer, built by Lou and Emory Upton in 1911, was a manual washer with an electric motor from their location in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In 1948, the company introduced its first automatic washing machine and continued growing, especially in the post-war years of the 20th century.
No longer limited to just washers, Whirlpool manufactures all sorts of home appliances. Keeping up with innovation, today’s high-efficiency washers offer water savings and plenty of automatic cycles. This 4.7-cubic-foot model features a pretreat station for stains and a sanitizing cycle.
If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!