The Nimrod lighters were manufactured in two original versions: The Pipe Lighter and the Commander/Admiral. Several theories exist as to why the lighters are called Nimrod. One is that the biblical Nimrod was a mighty hunter, and the Nimrod lighters were windproof and could be used outdoors. Another is that Ashley Ward manufactured parts for the British Nimrod fighter plane used during WWII. There is no conclusive evidence supporting either theory.
Ashley F. Ward, Inc. was founded in 1908 as a screw product manufacturer. Over the years, the company had changed it's name on various occasions, and presumably involving company reorganization. Several of it's incarnations included Ward Manufacturing Co., Ward-Nimrod Company, and it's current existence as Ashley Ward, Inc.
In 1946, Ashley Ward filed Patent 2432265 for the Nimrod Pipe Lighter, the patent eventually being awarded in 1947. Perhaps taking inspiration from their screw products, the Pipe Lighter began life resembling a nut in the middle of a bolt. It was unlike any lighter actually being manufactured at that time, although Ward's patent annotates several other patent applications for lighters with a tube-like shape.
Lighting required that the user place their thumb on the strike wheel, and pull the two halves apart. The lighter was designed to stop at a maximum extension to prevent the lighter from coming completely apart. This stop design originally had a button that could depress, allowing full disassembly of the lighter, but it appears that when the lighter was actually massed produced, the button was removed, making the lighter impossible to completely come apart. The lighter could also be lit by extending the lighter halves, and then flicking the strike wheel.
At some point, Ashley Ward produced the Commander model. The patent number stamped into the case was identical to that of the Pipe Lighter, making actual concept or creation dates impossible to follow. The interior shell housed in an exterior shell design was used. This concept predates the Zippo inserts design, and is not unique to either lighter. The Beattie Jet Lighter also uses this design, as did several other prototype patents filed previous to Zippo's inception in 1932.
Interestingly enough, FGM Enterprises, Inc. filed Patent 4749351 in 1988, showing a lighter virtually identical to the Nimrod Commander. The patent also cite's Ward's 1947 patent.
In the 1960's, Nimrod lighters were selling at a rate of 1,000,000 per year.
No serial numbers or production markings make it possible to tell when each lighter was actually made, unlike the coding used on the bottom of Zippo lighter cases. Even forcibly taking the lighter apart shows no interior markings to identify manufacture date.
The FGT Sportsman Plug-Lite is a currently manufactured near reproduction of the original Nimrod Pipe lighter. F.G.T. Enterprises, Inc. is a Tampa, Florida-based company that is a wholesaler and distributor of tobacco products and accessories. While FGT Enterprises is Florida based, the FGT Sportsman Plug-Lite bears the manufacturing stamp "KOREA". Differences between the FGT Sportsman and Nimrod Pipe Lighter includes:
- The Nimrod has a four-sided "nut." The FGT lighter has a six-sided "nut."
- The FGT lighter has a compass on one end. The Nimrod does not.
- The fuel reservoir on the FGT lighter is under the compass, the top fitting over the reservoir threads. The Nimrod lighter's reservoir is under the same end of the lighter, but the top fits into the reservoir threads.
- The FGT lighter can be disassembled via a screw accessible from the outside of the lighter. The Nimrod cannot be disassembled.