On this day in 1901, Frank Zamboni, the American inventor was born.
Zamboni was born in 1901 in Eureka, Utah to Italian immigrants. His parents soon bought a farm in Lava Hot Springs near Pocatello, Idaho, where he grew up. In 1920, he moved with his parents to the harbor district of Los Angeles, where his older brother George was operating an auto repair shop. After Frank attended a trade school in Chicago, he and his younger brother Lawrence opened an electrical supply business in 1922 in the Los Angeles suburb of Hynes (now part of Paramount). The following year he married and eventually had three children. In 1927, he and Lawrence added an ice-making plant and entered the block ice business. They continued their ice business in 1939 but saw little future in that business with the advent of electrically operated refrigeration units. They decided to use their excess refrigeration equipment to open an ice rink nearby.
In 1940, the brothers, along with a cousin, opened the Iceland rink, which proved very popular, in no small part because Frank had devised a way to eliminate rippling caused by the pipes that were laid down to keep the rink frozen. (The rink still operates and is still owned by the Zamboni family.) He obtained a patent for that innovation in 1946. Then, in 1949, he invented a machine that transformed the job of resurfacing an ice rink from a three-man, 90-minute task to a one-man, 10-minute job. He applied for a patent that same year and set up Frank J. Zamboni & Co. in Paramount to build and sell the machines. He obtained his patent in 1953. In the early 1950s he built them on top of Jeep CJ-3Bs, then on stripped Jeep chassis from 1956 through 1964. Demand for the machine proved great enough that his company added a second plant in Brantford, Ontario and a branch office in Switzerland. Though the term Zamboni was (and remains) trademarked by his company, the name is sometimes improperly used for any brand of ice resurfacing machine.
For more on Zamboni, read Frank Zamboni and the Ice-Resurfacing Machine.
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