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Frank Zamboni

Frank Joseph Zamboni, Jr. (January 16, 1901 July 27, 1988) was a U.S. inventor whose most famous invention was the Zamboni machine for resurfacing ice rinks.

He was born in Eureka, Utah to Italian immigrants. His parents soon bought a farm 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 business. After attending 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 sold their block ice business in 1939, seeing little future in that business with the recent advent of electrically operated refrigeration units. However, they kept their refrigeration equipment because they planned 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 1948, 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. In 1949, he applied for a patent, and set up Frank J. Zamboni & Co. in Paramount to build and sell the machines. He obtained his patent in 1953. 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 now commonly used for any brand of ice resurfacing machine.

In the 1970s, he invented machines to remove water from outdoor artificial turf surfaces, remove paint stripes from the same surfaces, and roll up and lay down artificial turf in domed stadiums. His final invention, in 1983, was an automatic edger to remove ice buildup from the edges of rinks.

He died of lung cancer in 1988, about two months after his wife's death. The Zamboni company, which has sold over 7000 of its signature machines in its history, is still owned and operated by the Zamboni family, currently by Frank's son and grandson.