Is anything really “Made in the USA” anymore?
Yes, actually. Quite a lot is, although manufacturing workers today make up a much smaller proportion of the American workforce than they did decades ago.
There is no getting around the fact that manufacturing typically is cheaper overseas, where workers often are paid less. Many products thought of as iconic “Americana” no longer are made in the U.S. Following are some everyday favorites that are made overseas.
Like Major League Baseball itself — with players hailing not just from the U.S. but also from the Caribbean, Japan, South Korea, Australia and elsewhere — production of the old “horsehide” is truly an international process.
Official MLB supplier Rawlings makes the balls in Costa Rica. However, the special rubbing mud used to remove new balls’ sheen and enhance pitchers’ grip still comes from the banks of the Delaware River in New Jersey.
2. Blue jeans
Blue jeans were born in 1871 when a Reno, Nevada, tailor collaborated with dry goods merchant Levi Strauss to produce a pair of pants tough enough for hard-working miners.
Today, Levi Strauss & Co., which originated the denim blue jean with its riveted stress points, now makes virtually all of its jeans outside of the U.S.
But the company’s Made in the USA 501® Original Fit Jeans still are made in the U.S.
3. Christmas lights
The first Christmas tree decorated with electric lights appeared on Dec. 22, 1882, in New York City, and sparked enthusiasm for a safer tradition than trees illuminated with burning candles. A zillion multicolored bulbs later, we all know how big the idea has become.
Though electric Christmas lights were an American invention, today none are manufactured in the United States, no doubt due at least in part to the fact they can be made approximately 80% more cheaply in China.
4. U.S. flags
China also does a busy export business manufacturing American flags. Many Americans object to the national symbol being made overseas, but bipartisan legislation to ban or restrict U.S. flag imports has failed several times.
A 2016 U.S. Census Bureau estimate revealed that more than $5 million worth of flags sold for Fourth of July celebrations were made overseas.
5. Hot Wheels
More than 50 years after zooming into the market, Mattel’s Hot Wheels still are among the best-selling toys in the world.
6. Radio Flyer
Radio Flyer, the Chicago-based maker of the iconic little red wagons that for decades have toted many an American child, manufactures most of its products in China, a company spokesperson told us in an email exchange.
The company, led by Chief Wagon Officer Robert Pasin, grandson of founder and Italian immigrant Antonio Pasin, does a smaller amount of its production in the U.S.
7. Etch A Sketch
This member of the National Toy Hall of Fame was the inspiration of French electrical technician André Cassagnes, who used his experience with the clinging properties of an electrostatic charge to invent the mechanical drawing toy. It was licensed and popularized by the Ohio Art Co. in 1960.
The manufacture of this baby boomer toy staple was moved to China in the early 2000s after the company sold Etch A Sketch to a Toronto toy company.