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Fascinating facts about the invention of the
flashlight
by Conrad Hubert in
1902

FLASHLIGHT
AT A GLANCE:

Although a flashlight is a relatively simple device, its invention did not occur until the late 19th century because it depended upon the earlier invention of the electric battery and electric light. Conrad Hubert received a US patent in 1903 , number 737,107 issued August 26, for a flashlight with an on/off switch in the now familiar cylindrical casing containing lamp and batteries.
THE STORY
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Invention: flashlight in 1902
Flashlight drawing from patent no, 737,107 (US) issued August 26, 1903. Courtesy www.uspto.gov
Function: noun / flash·light, flashlight, flash-light
Definition: a small portable battery-powered electric lamp, typically flashlight consists of a small electric light bulb with associated parabolic reflector, powered by electric batteries, and with an electric power switch
Patent: 737,107 (US) issued August 26, 1903
Inventor: Conrad Hubert (aka Akiba Horowitz)
NO
IMAGE
AVAILABLE
Criteria: First practical. Modern prototype. Entrepreneur.
Birth: April 15, 1856 in Minsk, Russia
Death: 1928
Nationality: American (of Russian decent)
Milestones:
1879 Thomas Alva Edison invents and patents the carbon filament electric light
1884 303358 Charles Beck 6/12 for incandescent lamp
1886 The National Carbon Co. was founded by the then Brush Electric Co. executive W. H. Lawrence
1889 401417 Charles Wesley Fox and Thomas Eustace Van Dyke 4/16 for Electric Lantern
1890 429172 John Irwin 6/8 for Portable Electric Lamp. Filed 6/30/81
1891 Akiba Horowitz arrives in U.S. from Russia. Changes name to Conrad Hubert
1895 551394 David Missell 12/17 for Electric Light
1896 559143 David Missell 4/28 for Electric Light and Signaling Device
1896 572805 Louis A. Jackson 12/8 Electric Lamp. Assigned to Acme Electrical Lamp Co.
1896 First commercial battery for sale. Carbon-zinc battery by National Carbon Company
1898 National Carbon Company introduces the first D cell battery
1898 Conrad Hubert forms American Electrical Novelty & Mfg. Co. to market battery powered novelties
1898 603112 David Missell 4/26 for Electric Lamp. Assigned to American Electrical Novelty & Mfg. Co.
1998 614318 Owen T. Bugg Jr. 10/15
1899 617592 David Missell 1/10 for Electric Device. Assigned to American Electrical Novelty & Mfg. Co.
1899 618706 John Sloane Mead 1/31 for Electric Lamp (Large tubular shape)
1900 657020 Franklin Brooks 8/28 for Portable Electric Lamp
1901 669546 Morris Newgold 3/12 for Portable Electric Lamp (Large tubular shape)
1902 704113 William Rocke 7/8 for Circuit-Closer for Portable Electrical Apparatus
1902 Conrad Hubert files for patent on June 6, for Electric Circuit Closer
1903 737107 Conrad Hubert 8/26 for flashlight (Cylindrical casing containing lamp and batteries)
1903 741245 Conrad Hubert 10/13 for Electric Lamp or Candle
1904 774749 Edwin R. Gill 11/15 for Portable Electric Light. Assigned to Electric Contract Co. (Tubular)
1905 American Electrical Novelty & Mfg. Co renamed The American Ever Ready Company
1906 National Carbon Company buys half interest in The American Ever Ready Company
1910 William David Coolidge, at GE, invents an improved method of making tungsten filament light bulbs
1914 National Carbon Company buys all of The American Ever Ready Company
1914 1122424 Charles Sagebrecht 12/29 for Portable Electric Flash-Light
1917 National Carbon Company merged with Union Carbide to form The Union Carbide and Carbon Co
1947 interview with The New Yorker magazine, Joshua Lionel Cowan claims he invented the flashlight
1986 Ralston Purina, Co., buys Eveready Battery Company (holding company of Energizer brands)
2000 Energizer becomes an independent company

flashlight, flashlight, flash-light, electric hand torch, portable light, Conrad Hubert, Akiba Horowitz, David Misell, W H Lawrence, Joshua Lionel Cowan, Enigerizer, Eveready, American Electrical Novelty & Mfg. Co., National Carbon Company,  invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
The Story:
Although a flashlight is a relatively simple device, its invention did not occur until the late 19th century because it depended upon the earlier invention of the electric battery and electric light. A flashlight, or torch (as it is known in the United Kingdom), is a handheld portable electric spotlight. A typical flashlight consists of a small electric light bulb with associated parabolic reflector, powered by electric batteries, and with an electric power switch. The components are mounted in a housing that contains the necessary electric circuit and provides ease of handling, a means of access to the batteries for replacement, and a clear covering over the light bulb for its protection.

In 1898 the  National Carbon Company introduced the first D cell electric battery, designed specifically for use in a flashlight. The National Carbon Company was founded in 1886 by the then Brush Electric Company executive W. H. Lawrence. The company would supply carbon items needed in electrical devices such as carbon-arc electrodes, motor brushes and rods used in carbon-zinc batteries.

By 1898 the electric light was in wide spread use and provided a practical light source for the flashlight. The electric light with a carbon filament invented by Thomas Edison in 1879 was able to provide about 1500 hours of illumination. The industry had matured and was controlled by General Electric and Westinghouse.

Late in the 19th century, many attempts to devise a portable electric lamp had been made, but the early ones were unsuccessful. Now a common household item, the lowly flashlight was once considered a novel toy. The first flashlight, or electric hand torch, was invented about 1896. Early portable electric lights were called "flash lights" since they would not give a long steady stream of light. The flashlights introduced in 1898 by Conrad Hubert's company, that would later become Eveready, were more trustworthy making Eveready the leading name in flashlights.

Akiba Horowitz born on April 15, 1856 in Minsk, Russia came to the United States in 1891 and changed his name to Conrad Hubert. He was flat broke. He did what he could to earn a living.  He worked in a cigar store, ran a restaurant for a while and managed a boarding house. He even tried repairing watches. Whatever he did, however, he never made much money. All he wanted was to stop worrying about making ends meet.

Conrad Hubert became aware of the novelty item side of the electric industry and the tremendous profits to be gained and decided to start his own company. Hubert, came up with portable fans, a novelty pocket light, lighted stick pins, and even an illuminated flowerpot. Hubert named his company American Electrical Novelty & Manufacturing Company...In 1897, Hubert, seeing the potential of the flashlight, hired David Misell, an inventor who had patented a portable electric lamp in 1895 and a early bicycle head lamp in 1896. As an employee of Hubert's David Misell continued inventing improvements to lighting devices and together and separately they patented several flashlights..

Hubert's first flashlights were hand-made from crude paper and fiber tubes, with a bulb and a rough brass reflector. Misell and Hubert assembled a number of tubular flashlights and gave them to New York City policemen in different precincts. They began receiving favorable testimonials from the policemen. In 1905 Hubert received a US patent in 1903 , number 737107 issued August 26, for a flashlight with an on/off switch in the now familiar cylindrical casing containing lamp and batteries.

In 1906, National Carbon Company which had supplied Eveready with materials for their flashlights, bought a half interest in the company for $200,000. Hubert remained president and there was little change in the general policies of the company. The name was changed to "The American Ever Ready Company" and the trade name was shortened to one word - Eveready.

Flashlight technology took a great leap forward around 1910, with the introduction of nickel-plated tubes to complement vulcanized fiber and the invention of the tungsten filament bulb. Vest pocket tungsten flashlights became popular, as did search lanterns, house lamps and intricate art deco candle lamps.

In 1914, American Ever Ready became part of Nation Carbon Company now forming a manufacturer specializing in both batteries and lighting products.

According to an Eveready brochure called "101 Uses For An Eveready," by 1916 the flashlight was an essential personal item—"the light that does not flicker in a draught, extinguish in the wind, and is controlled instantly by finger pressure. It's the light everyone needs." Some of the flashlight's 101 suggested uses included reading fruit labels, filling the tank of a gasoline stove, examining a refrigerator's interior and signaling with Morse Code.

In 1917 National Carbon Company merged with Union Carbide to form The Union Carbide and Carbon Co. and Eveready began using the name "DAYLO". The logo on the battery cap was changed to read "EVEREADY DAYLO". Daylo was never well accepted. The main reason for the non-acceptance was that only Eveready could use Daylo. The public still used the word "flashlight" and all other flashlight making companies called their products "flashlights". The advertising campaign was a success but the name was a dud. The Daylo name was dropped in 1921.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Eveready commissioned timeless pieces of art advertising flashlights and batteries that appeared in periodicals, Eveready catalogs, trade magazines, calendars and posters.

Artists like the late Frances Tipton Hunter, who produced covers for the Saturday Evening Post, captured Americana's essence. In her works for Eveready Hunter typically included a child, a pet and an Eveready flashlight, all executed in a Norman Rockwell-like fashion.

One Hunter classic features a little girl watching over a litter of kittens—with the aid of an Eveready flashlight, of course. This print proved so popular that reproductions suitable for framing were offered to readers for 10 cents. Readers responded by sending in 70,000 dimes—in the midst of the Depression. The poster has additional history, as well—the nine kittens were the genesis of the Eveready "Cat With Nine Lives" symbol.


An often repeated story in both book form and on the Web credits Joshua Lionel Cowan with inventing the flashlight. We have been told the story stems from an interview printed in The New Yorker magazine in 1947. Cowen stated he accidentally invented the flashlight in 1898, attaching small canisters containing batteries and light bulbs to a flower pot for the purpose of illuminating the plant. The invention was a flop, and Cowen sold the rights to the invention to Conrad Hubert, who decided to try selling the lights without the flower pot, the flashlight. Although the story could be true, they were both living in New York at the same time, Cowan had worked for both a battery and a lamp manufacture, Hubert (having newly arrived in America from Russia) was looking for work and at the time of the article Cowan was already rich and famous, Lionel Trains,  and therefore did not need to remake history. But the only solid evidence is the New Yorker article. You can decide if the story is true.

Conrad Hubert invented the electric flashlight in 1898 and founded American Eveready (now Energizer) to market his many inventions. When he died in 1928, Hubert willed one-quarter of his estate to relatives and the remaining three-quarters to charity, leaving it to his executor to appoint three prominent Americans to oversee the disposition of the $6 million estate.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Invention of the Electric Battery    from The Great Idea Finder
Invention of the Light Bulb  
 from The Great Idea Finder
History of Electricity
   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Household Items    from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs.

Why Didn't I Think of That?: Bizarre Origins of Ingenious Inventions We Couldn't Live Without
by Allyn Freeman, Bob Golden / Paperback - 260 pages / John Wiley & Sons; (September 1997)
Filled with wacky and fascinating facts, awe-inspiring success statistics, and rags-to-riches stories, Chronicles the odd origins behind 50 famous inventions and reveals the business side of each product's actual production, marketing, and distribution.

Collecting Flashlights: With Value Guide
by Stuart Schneider / Paperback (October 1996) / Schiffer Publishing, Ltd
Never before has there been an extensive treatment of the flashlight from an historical and collectible point of view, until this beautifully illustrated full color volume.

ON THE WEB:
Eveready Flashlight History
Hubert acquired the patent for the first Eveready flashlight, called an electric hand torch, in 1898.
URL: www.energizer.com/learning/historyofflashlights.asp)
Flashlight Museum
Everything you needed to know about flashlights including its history. Operated by Stuart Schneider author of Collecting Flashlights: With Value Guide.
(URL: www.geocities.com/~stuarts1031/flashlight.html)
Eveready Batteries
He gave the company away to work on model trains. From the Useless Information site.
(URL: home.nycap.rr.com/useless/lionel/index.html)
Battery + Light = Flashlight
Although a relatively simple device, its invention did not occur until the late 19th century because it depended upon the earlier invention of the electric battery and electric light.
(URL: www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/flashlight)
National Carbon Company
In 1906, National Carbon Company which had supplied Eveready with materials for their batteries, bought a half interest in the company for $200,000.
(URL: www.scripophily.net/nacaconewje1.html)

Portable Power
Much twenty-first-century technology runs on nineteenth-century chemistry. Artical by Curt Wohleber for Invention & Technology magazine.
(URL: www.inventionandtechnology.com/xml/2002/4/it_2002_4_dept_objlessons.xml)
Conrad Hubert Philanthropist
When he died in 1928, Hubert willed one-quarter of his estate to relatives and the remaining three-quarters to charity. Article by Martin Morse Wooster for Philanthropy Roundtable.
(URL: www.philanthropyroundtable.org/magazines/1998/july/wooster.html)
Flashlight
Now a common household item, the lowly flashlight was once considered a novel toy.
(URL: www.bookrags.com/sciences/sciencehistory/flashlight-woi.html)
First Tubular Flashlight
At about 1897, Hubert, seeing the potential of the flashlight, joined forces with David Misell, the inventor of the first tubular flashlight, and they patented several flashlights together.
(URL:www.bergen.org/AAST/Projects/Engineering_Graphics/_EG2001/the_flashlight_project/history.html)
Flashlight Museum
Everything you needed to know about flashlights including its history.
(URL:www.geocities.com/~stuarts1031/flashlight.html)
Coal Miner's Safety Lamp
Early in the 20th century, many attempts to devise a portable electric lamp had been made, but the early ones were unsuccessful. Article by Bill Johnst.
(URL: www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/mh_papers/lettherebelight.html)
Duracell History
The story of Duracell begins in the early 1920's with an inventive scientist named Samuel Ruben and an eager manufacturer of tungsten filament wire named Philip Rogers Mallory.
(URL: www.duracell.com/company/history.asp?id=50&)
Energizer Bunny History
Official Home of Eveready Battery Company and the Energizer Bunny who was born in 1989.
(URL: www.energizer.com/bunny/historyofbunny.aspwww.EnergizerFlashlights.com)
The History of the Flashlight
Every home has one — sometimes one in each room — on hand for emergencies. Most toolboxes have one; for plumbers and electricians, it is an indispensable tool for peering into small, dark areas. Every fire truck or emergency services vehicle stocks rechargeable ones. Article by Laura Jean Whitcomb.
(URL: www.t-n.com/Newsletter/Spring04/Spring04flashlight.htm)
Maglite History
A champion of free enterprise and “Made in the U.S.A.” manufacturing, Anthony Maglica founded Mag Instrument in Los Angeles in 1955 and designed the Maglite® flashlight.
(URL: www.maglite.com/mag/history.asp)

WHERE TO FIND:
White LED Pen Light
Electronics / by Streamlight / ASIN: B00008BFS5 / Model number: 65018 / Less than $11.00
Ultra slim, waterproof, LED pen light. 100,000 hour white LED is visible from over a mile away. Features momentary blink or constant "on" switching. Aluminum body with ridged grip and pocket clip. three AAAA alkaline batteries included in purchase.
Nightstar Magnetic Force Flashlight Hi-Tech Clear
Electronics / by Applied Innovative Technologies / ASIN: B00016WMYU / Less than $34.00
The NightStar flashlight is an excellent emergency resource in all situations from home to office to vehicle. For anyone that has been without light in a difficult situation, for any reason, NightStar is the answer. This is a brand new model with even more power, light intensity and ability to float in water with LED in upright position.

WORDS OF WISDOM:
"In the beginning there was nothing. God said, 'Let there be light!' And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better." -- Ellen DeGeneres

"Let your light shine. Shine within you so that it can shine on someone else. Let your light shine." -- Oprah Winfrey, O Magazine, January 2004

HOW IT WORKS:
How does a flashlight work?
There are seven main components to the flashlight that make it work.

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • Because early batteries were weak and bulbs primitive, flashlights of the era produced only a brief flash of light—thus the name.
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised November 4, 2005.
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