Ten! Hut!

sword & Plough

I recently came across an amazing American firm that I felt compelled to tell you about.  Sword & Plough is the brain child of two American sisters, Betsy and Emily.  Born into a military family, Betsy and Emily grew up at West Point.  Emily attended Middlebury College, where she was the only ROTC cadet on a campus of 2,450; Emily’s ROTC meetings were notoriously short.  After her sophomore year at college, Emily attended the U.S. Army Airborne School and eventually served as an officer in the U.S. Army.

Sword & Plough ladies

During her time in the Army, Emily began to become aware of the plight of U.S. military personnel upon entering the civilian job market after they had left military service.  An idea began to form in Emily’s mind, in between figuring out the proper placement of anti-personnel mines and the ins and outs of driving a tank.  What if my sis and I could create a business that would provide middle class jobs for our comrades leaving the service who would create great stylish bags using military surplus fabric?  Unlike so many of us who have great ideas but lack the initiative to bring our dreams to fruition, Emily and Betsy actually created a viable business that is providing great jobs for some of our veterans.

The ladies launched Sword & Plough in 2013, but given their service to our country, let’s just say early business meetings were a bit of a challenge.  According to the Sword & Plough website, “When Emily deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, Sword & Plough had just launched on Kickstarter. We built our business even while our CEO was deployed in a war zone – often cutting our Skype conference calls short due to incoming mortar fire or other military emergencies. The founding team was separated by eight time zones, so conference calls always happened during odd hours of the day (and night).”

Sword & Plough is all about providing gainful employment for their brothers and sisters in arms.  According to Emily and Betsy, “By incorporating veterans into every stage of the business (as designers, managers, sewers, quality control experts and even models), the company could empower veteran employment. And through its branding and outreach, Sword & Plough could help bridge the civil-military divide. The bags could be used as conversation pieces and the company could become a platform to bring public awareness to veteran issues.”

Well Emily and Betsy’s mission seems to be working.  I urge you to check out the Sword & Plough website to snag a great bag, see all the recognition the firm is getting and learn about all the good they are doing. I never cease to be amazed at the hard work Americans like Emily and Betsy will exert to build a business that makes great products, but also creates great jobs for members of our extended American family.  If I had been in the military, I would end this post with some typical military phrase.  But sadly I wasn’t, so I will end with the only military phrase I know which I got from watching MASH: That is all!

Posted in american made, Luggage, Made in America, made in usa | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Not that kind of American Field!


I haven’t posted in quite a while, but it wasn’t laziness on my part I assure you.  Rather, I have been working like a strap on my new website Homerica.  Homerica is your one stop for everything you need for your American home; it will truly be an American home since every product featured on Homerica is made by members of our extended American family.  I have also been blogging on Homerica’s blog, Stories of Home, so I urge you to start following that blog as well as this one!

I recently became aware of an interesting bunch that is promoting American brands at four pop up markets over the next few months.  American Field is holding events in Boston (September 12-13th), Washington D.C. (October 17-18th), Atlanta (October 31-November 1st) and Brooklyn (November 21-22nd).  If you are an American maker, you can become an American Field vendor; the pricing for the events is very reasonable.  $750 for a basic booth, $1,500 for a premium double booth.  If you are an American crafted product aficionado, you can show up to (1) buy great American products, (2) visit with other American kindred souls, (3) talk to a slew of great American makers and (4) eat and drink with said American kindred souls and American makers.  And the price of admission is …….nada.  Just show up and engage in the four activities set forth above.

American Field was started by Mark Bollman, the owner of Ball and Buck.  Ball and Buck is based in Boston and makes lots of clothing for American fellas.  American Field plays a critical role, in my opinion, in allowing ordinary Americans to meet American makers and allowing American makers a inexpensive outlet for selling their wares and connecting with American consumers.  Last year, 7500 people attended American Field’s two pop up markets.  This year more than 120 American brands have joined American Field and the numbers are on the rise.  God only knows how many people will attend this year’s four American Field markets, but given the fact that American Field has been getting a lot of press recently, the numbers will probably be huge.

So I urge you to attend one of American Field’s four pop up markets this year, meet the makers, eat a lot and support the members of our extended American family by purchasing the products they craft.

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Four sales you shouldn’t miss!

I buy American made products almost exclusively, but that doesn’t mean I ignore sales of American made products.  I like a bargain as much as the next fella.  The time around the 4th of July often provides a target rich environment for sales of products made by members of our extended American family.  So here goes.

Bills Khakis

I have bought a lot of clothes from Bills Khakis over the last three years and I have not once been disappointed by the style, quality and value they offer.  So I was delighted to get a notice on my email that Bills Khakis’ Summer Sale was getting under way.  The Summer Sale includes lots of great offerings.  I plan on replacing the last polo shirts I have in my closet that were probably sewn by children in Bangladesh with a couple of real beauties offered on the Summer Sale that I know were sewn by adults in Pennsylvania.

Ernest Alexander

Ernest Alexander makes very cool luggage and bags in New York.  Right now you can get 30% off selected Ernest Alexander products, including this amazingly cool Hudson British Tan Wax Twill Messenger Bag.


Ok, you really can’t dilly dally if you want to save 35% on selected American made Okabashi sandals.  The sale ends on 6/30/15 at midnight PST.  If you want to see a great feature on Okabashi, click this link.  My favorite Okabashis are the Classic Flip Flops; they are definitely old school.

Classic Flip Flops


My REI refund voucher has been burning a hole in my wallet, so I plan to blow the whole thing on American made camping stuff at REI’s 4th of July Sale.  Now finding American made stuff to buy from the 7921 items on offer at the REI sale is fairly easy to do.  Just look on the left hand side of the page for the features tab, click the “Made in USA” box and you will be presented with 650 American products on sale to choose from.  Which is less than 10% of the sales items which is sort of depressing, but I am not going to let that slow me down.  I have my eye on two Platypus 3 Liter Big Zip LP Reservoirs, made right here in my home town of Seattle.

Ben and I drink a lot of water when we visit amazing lakes in Washington State such as Colchuck Lake which we hiked to last week.

American goods are a great value at any time of the year, but when they are on sale I often really go to town.  I urge you to do the same.  You will get a great deal and your purchases will ensure continued employment for members of our extended American family that product the greatest products in the world.

Now get shopping!

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If I were in the market

I am currently leasing a 2014 Honda Civic, which was assembled at one of Honda’s American plants and has a good deal of American built content.  But if you are in need of a new ride and want to buy an “uber” American car, the car for you may be the one pictured above, the Buick Enclave.  According to the 2015 Kogod Made in America Auto Index, the Buick Enclave boasts 87.5% domestic content.  Buick seems to be the bell cow when it comes to the highest amount of domestic content.  If you are in the market for a new car and want to buy one with the maximum amount of content produced by members of our extended American family, the 2015 Kogod Made in America Auto Index is required reading.

Now get shopping!

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Stepping up to the table

I like to eat.  You name it, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, I love a good meal.  But I wanted to ensure that the forks and knives I use to eat my meals were made by Americans.  Imagine my shock when I discovered that only one company is still making flatware here at home. But what a company!  Sherrill Manufacturing located in Sherrill, NY makes some absolutely beautiful flatware patterns under the Liberty Tabletop brand.  My favorite Liberty Tabletop pattern is the Pinehurst.

35 members of our extended American family are working at Liberty Tabletop making great flatware.  The steel for Liberty’s flatware is made in this country as are most of the products Liberty uses to turn its raw American steel into the most beautiful forks, knives and spoons you can buy.  Alice and Matt Roberts were nice enough to send along a short piece on Liberty that recently appeared on TV in New York.  I urge you to watch it and learn about Liberty, their commitment to making their products in New York and the amazing products Liberty is making that you can buy from their website.  I am absolutely certain that once my Pinehurst order arrives, all the food I eat with it will taste better.  And given my cooking prowess, I need all the help I can get!

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I’ve got a few things on my plate

I am pretty swamped these days.  In addition to my real job, my Simply American job has been growing.  I am finally finishing my book, Simply American, Putting Our Extended American Family Back To Work.  I am putting the finishing touches on my new website, Homerica, designed to let people remodel, build and furnish their homes with American made products.  And I am starting to work on developing a service to allow American firms to tell their American stories.  Whew!  So sorry for the radio silence on the blog for the last three weeks.  But there are a number of Made in America issues in the news recently that I wanted to let you know about.

A reasonable question

I have written about the problems about our cheap apparel made abroad a few times over the last few years.  Well I am not alone in questioning this practice.  I read a great article in the Baltimore Sun last week written by Dan Rodricks.  The title of the piece was “For Under Armour, why not ‘UA Made in the USA’?”  I urge you to read it.

A must see John Oliver episode

On the same subject, this last Sunday, John Oliver delivered a great segment on the high cost to others of the low cost apparel sold in this country by H&M, the Gap, and the other wealthy rag merchants.  If you don’t feel shitty buying cheap apparel made in Bangladesh or somewhere similar after watching Oliver’s piece, you need to take your soul in for a checkup.

But its not all bad news!

On the plus side, there have been a lot of great stories in the news about new products being made by members of our extended family.  A great new firm for American made furniture, Greycork, was recently featured in Forbes.  Just yesterday I was contacted by a company, Red Chapter Clothing Conmpany, whose clothing is sewn by members of our extended American family, as opposed to 12 year old girls in Bangladesh.  An article in the Times Free Press heralded that retailer for home products are clamoring for U.S. products because their customers are demanding them.  The article features products by four companies that are featured on my soon to be live Homerica website:  Blendtec, 360 CookwareVitamix and Microplane.  Finally, if you want to sleep soundly knowing you are supporting American workers, buy a mattress equipped with Leggett & Platt innersprings.  The company’s mattresses innersprings are certified Made in the USA!

So if you are in the market for virtually any product you need, there are American options for you to consider.  I urge you do not only consider American products, but make them your default choice as I have for the last four years.  Now get shopping!

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Again with the Vikings!


If you haven’t watched the Vikings series, start immediatley.  It is great drama, lots of juicy battles and a very interesting lead character, Ragnar Lodbrok.

I used to play soccer in my 20s with a Ragnar, a holding midfielder who used to scream at everyone in his blunt Icelandic accent.  But I digress.

The Vikings were amazing voyagers.  Leif Erickson visited North America five centuries before Columbus.  He was not the last Viking to come ashore on our continent.  Viking raids were known for their brutality.  Few Viking sorties in the Middle Ages in Europe were greeted with welcoming garden parties.  From everything I have read and seen, the Vikings were thoroughly scary.  So I was a bit frightened to read that a new Viking invasion of America was about to begin. I ran out and stocked up on shields and pointed sticks, but I needn’t have bothered.  As it turns out, the Vikings that are arriving in America aren’t here to plunder, but rather to manufacture automobiles.

It was reported last week that Volvo, the favorite auto brand of so many aging hippies and hip soccer moms, has decided to join BMW, Mercedes, VWHonda, Toyota, Subaru, Hundai, and Kia and produce cars in America.  No word yet on where Volvo plans to site the $500 million factory.  I am of course pulling for Washington State where I live.  In fact, I plan to let Volvo management know about the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard where Viking decendents are thick as theives.  Volvos produced in Ballard.  I love the idea.

Volvo is hoping that it can transplant its Viking spirit from Sweden to the U.S. and become very successful.  Volvo should hire a spokesman for their American cars who has already achieved what Volvo aspires to do.  I nominate Mads Mikkelsen.

While Volvo is from Sweden and Mikkelsen is from Denmark, I say close enough.  And you got to admit the guy is photogenic.  Volvo could really emphasis it’s Viking roots with images of Mikkelsen in its ad campaign.

But it needs to make sure it uses the right images.

Hey, nobody’s perfect.

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