Friday, October 29, 2010

Flashlights - Shining Light On Their History

The flashlight is an example of an invention that would have been impossible if not for the invention of other items, such as the electric light bulb and the electric battery.  The history of the flashlight:
  • The carbon filament electric light bulb was invented and patented by Thomas Edison in 1879.
  • For many years, electric batteries were 'wet' cells, usually glass containers filled with substances that produced electricity due to chemical reactions. They were fragile, heavy, and dangerous. The dry cell replaced the wet ingredients with a paste, and the first 'D' size dry cell battery was invented in 1898 by The National Carbon Company.
  • There were many attempts to devise a portable lighting device in the late 19th century. These attempts were considered novelties with little practical value. The name flashlight comes from these early attempts, as they would not give a steady stream of light, but would flash.
  • A Russian immigrant by the name of Conrad Hubert started his own company called American Electrical Novelty And Manufacturing Company that produced lighted stick pins and a lighted flowerpot among other novelty items. He recognized the potential of the flashlight, and hired David Misell in 1897, who had invented an early bicycle lamp, to help devise a workable model.
  • The first flashlights made by Hubert were made by hand from paper and fiber tubes with a brass reflector and light bulb. They used the newly-invented 'D' cry cell batteries. A number of these flashlights were made, and Hubert gave them to some New York City policemen. The policemen gave Hubert very favorable reports about them, and in 1905 Hubert got a patent for a flashlight with an on/off switch in a cylindrical casing.
  • The National Carbon Company bought a half interest in Hubert's company in 1906. The name of the company was changed to The American Ever Ready Company. The trade name was shortened to Eveready.
The flashlight has had many changes and improvements over the years. Metal tubes used for the body instead of paper, more efficient batteries, long lasting light bulbs, even no-battery flash lights that produce their own power by shaking or cranking a handle. But the basic design is the same as that created in 1898 by Hubert and Misell.

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