Manufacturing Madness

Manufacturing madness… is is the political fallout over changes in tarrifs? A more recent version of Mad Hatter disease, the results of mercury poisoning among hatmakers? In fact, it is the annual contest to determine the Coolest Thing Made in South Carolina. 16 local products go head to head in brackets similar to the NCAA basketball tournament.

Only one item can be the coolest.

Some of this year’s candidates:

Kazoobie Kazoos

Made by Kazoobie Kazoos, LLC in Beaufort County, Kazoobie Kazoos include promotional custom printed kazoos, wedding kazoos, snazzy wood and metal kazoos shaped like ears of corn or airplanes, trumpet and French horn kazoos, and many more varieties of the iconic American instrument.

Kazoobie clarifies that a kazoo is a type of singing drum or mirliton. They also explain that we should not make a hole in the membrane of the kazoo, an action which “shows one’s lack of understanding of the physics of the kazoo.”

A popular story attributes the invention to a former slave named Alabama Vest in the 1840s, collaborating with a German clockmaker, Thaddeus von Clegg. The modern kazoo was patented in 1902 and kazoo players never looked back.

  1. Dixie Paper Plates

Made by Georgia-Pacific in Darlington County, Dixie paper plates and known far and wide. The company invested $175 million in its manufacturing plant last year, revving up its capacity significantly.

Dixie cups got their start in 1907, when disposable cups were first made with the goal of limiting the spread of germs. In 1910, once they had built machines that assembled their cups without contact from human hands, they doubled down on the health focus, naming them Health Cups. In 1916, facing competition from other manufacturers, they switched to the name Dixie just in time for the pandemic.

The pandemic — that is, the 1918 flu pandemic — brought disposable cups into homes by 1921. Dixie cheered the whole process up by bringing out Dixie ice cream cups (containing ice cream!) in 1923 and cocktail cups (add your own liquor) in 1952.


Made by MycoWorks in Union County, Reishi is as new and unfamiliar as Dixie plates are famous and ubiquitous. Reishi is a special sustainable leather alternative which the makers consider the equal of natural leather — but it’s vegan.

It’s made of mycelium, a root-like network of fungi. “Mycelium connects and sustains organic life on earth, with its extravagant tapestries of microscopic threads,” says the company website. “Like electricity. Like water. Mycelium is a dynamic and powerful aspect of nature.”

Okay, so we can have Hermes handbags and furniture made out of something like electricity and water. MycoWorks uses a patented process to grow mycelium under specific conditions, resulting in a material with a similar look and feel to leather but with a lower environmental impact.

These three seem pretty cool, but there were 166 initial candidates, and 56,000 people have voted so far. You can vote among the top 16 now.

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