10 Iconic Products Still Made In America

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Jerks in the American media would have you believe all of America's iconic products are made elsewhere and American manufacturing is circling the wide, stinky drain to irrelevance. 

As the American media outlet that suggested just such a thing this year, we feel inclined to tell you that it's not exactly true. 

No, Converse Chuck Taylors, Levi's Jeans, American Girl dolls and even Craftsman tools aren't strictly "Made In The U.S.A." anymore, despite 61% of Americans telling AdWeek and Harris they'd pay more for American-made products. Yes, the University of Michigan says American manufacturers make only 75% of the items America consumes and may make less if manufacturing continues to be neglected. That doesn't mean there aren't still great items being produced on our shores each day under brand names Americans have loved for generations. 

In fact, the U.S. is even encroaching on the turf of some of its biggest rivals. We took a look around the market and found 10 items that are still proudly Made in the U.S.A.: 

Louisville Slugger bats 

So what if the Rawlings balls being thrown by major league pitchers are now made in Costa Rica? The lumber crushing them the bleachers, parking lots and the Arizona Diamondbacks' outfield swimming pool is still pure Kentucky. 

The company supplies bats to 60% of the majors, hands out the Silver Slugger award to the best offensive players in the American and National leagues and has its own museum in Louisville.

 

Indian Motorcycles 

Founded in 1897, left for dead shortly after World War II and revived briefly during the '60s, '70s and late '90s, Indian Motorcycle took on new life in 2006 and began making bikes at a facility in North Carolina. The move brought back an iconic American ride that set world speed records in the mid-'60s and a 2005 film that put Sir Anthony Hopkins at the handlebars. Last year, motorcycle and water vehicle manufacturer Polaris ( PII) bought Indian and moved production to its facilities in Iowa, which should keep the Chief's roar a fixture on American roads for at least a few miles longer. 

Slinky 

Naval engineer Richard James inadvertently invented the stair-descending spring during a failed attempt at making stabilizers for ships' instruments during World War II. After he sold a bunch to a department store in Philadelphia in 1945, demand became so great that James started mass-producing them there. Production eventually moved to Hollidayville, Pa., where  more than 300 million have been made to date. It's still fairly cheap, too, with the average Slinky selling for roughly $5. 

Gibson guitars 

Les Paul died three years ago, but the Gibson ax that bears his name made him immortal in rock circles. Slash, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend and Billy Joe Armstrong are all Les Paul adherents whose signature versions of that guitar have raked in millions for Gibson. Founded in 1902 in Kalamazoo, Mich., Gibson Guitar created the first electric guitar in 1936, while Paul would create the first solid-body version just a few years later.

The original Kalamazoo plant closed in 1984, but the company's 500 employees in Nashville have been producing 2,500 Les Pauls, Flying Vs, Explorers, SGs and Firebirds every week by hand. Paul and the rock gods would accept nothing less. 

Kohler fixtures 

How American is Kohler? Consider that the plumbing product maker is in Kohler, Wis., the company town it founded in 1912 after leaving nearby Sheboygan to expand operations. Folks nearby still call drinking fountains "bubblers" in deference to the original Bubbler invented by Kohler. Not only do its 6,500 employees still produce all of Kohler's products here, but nearly all of its fixtures are made from recycled and reclaimed iron from the U.S. 

Weber grills 

Other competitors have come and gone, but Weber's iconic charcoal-grill kettle design hasn't changed shape since the grill was created in 1952. That domed lid and heat reflection have been the center of suburban burger-and-dog outings and full-on barbecues for generations and get high marks from Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping. The world's grill sales leader does produce its Weber Q gas models abroad, but if you see that classic outline, chances are it was made right in Palatine, Ill. Even if you can't muster the energy to cook on one yourself, Weber's been kind enough to remove that step and open restaurants in Chicago and around its Illinois headquarters.

 

KitchenAid mixers 

The old story goes that a Hobart Manufacturing executive's wife coined the name in 1915, telling the exec, "I don't care what you call it, this is the best kitchen aid I ever had." The KitchenAid brand appeared four years later, but didn't pick up steam until it appeared in multiple colors in 1955. Now more than 40 colors are produced by 700 workers at the KitchenAid factory in Greenville, Ohio. They're still a wedding industry staple and easily the heaviest, most durable appliance in most American kitchens. The company, now a Whirlpool ( WHR) brand, has since branched into other areas of the kitchen, but the familiar outline of its popular mixer is still what springs to mind when someone asks for a KitchenAid. 

Herman Miller chairs 

Know that really comfortable chair in the office you keep hoping to snag when the guy who's been there since the tech boom leaves? It's likely Herman Miller's Aeron. Much like the other iconic American products on this list, the Aeron's beauty stemmed from its design. Folks in the design community love it so much that it's found a place at the Museum of Modern Design in New York. Herman Miller ( MLHR) cranks out its chairs at two factories in Western Michigan and produces about four a minute. While nearly three-quarters of those sales occur in the U.S., Herman Miller exports its chairs to another 140 countries. 

Airstream trailers 

Founder Wally Byam started the company by building trailers in his Los Angeles backyard during the 1920s. It occurred to him that making them less boxy would cut down on drag and help drivers save on gas. The chromed-out, space-age oddity of the American roads was born and eventually outgrew Los Angeles for bigger digs in Jackson Center, Ohio. Now owned by Thor Industries ( THO), Airstream still has the exterior design geeks love, but has filled the trailer with two-toned accents and tech toys that have made them the road vehicle of choice for companies such as Nintendo and Quicksilver

Georgia chopsticks 

Every once in a while, China needs some U.S. help.

When struck recently with a timber shortage, the Chinese market looked to Georgia Chopsticks, based in Americus, Ga., which began making 2 million sets a day out of native Georgia sweet gum and poplar trees. It's been such a successful export that Georgia has increased capacity to 10 million pairs a day. If that sounds impossible, consider that Chinese companies make about 63 billion chopsticks a year, while Japan burns through another 23 billion.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston. 

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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