Illuminating The World

Imagine your only light source in the black of night being a candle or oil-burning lamp? For centuries that was the source available to most people. Brilliantly, in 1896 Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb (created in 1879) and George Leclanche’s battery (created in 1866) were put to use in a portable, hand held devise known as the FLASHLIGHT.

The name FLASHLIGHT originates from the early weak carbon filament and weak batteries these devises held. Early lights would only “flash” light briefly and only had a ring or tab switch which had to be pressed against the metal to make the electrical connection. Later, flashlights would see improvements in the batteries and bulbs and could illuminate for up to two straight hours.

Assortment of Early Winchester Flashlights

Assortment of Early Winchester Flashlights

The American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company was one of the first and most successful companies to make these early flashlights. A large part of their success came from the realization that they could not just make the flashlight as a stand-alone product, therefore, they invested heavily in making their own batteries. Flashlight batteries would have to constantly be replaced which generated impressive sales for the company. These high sales rocketed the company, now known as EVEREADY, to the most successful flashlight company in the world.

Everready Display

My passion for collecting these illuminating beauties may have sprouted during my youth growing up in the north woods of Michigan…no street lights, no yard lights. Of course, my father had several flashlights for us to use when we would venture out into the darkness. They were not the best flashlights, however, as a kid I would have fun using them to cut a bright hole into the darkness and find my way. My father and I would often go hunting, fishing and camping. For all of these journeys our trusty flashlights were right by our side.

Since those early childhood days, I have become an addicted antique collector. My focus has been antique soda advertising, early bottles, vintage perfume bottles, antique oak furniture and Winchester items.

Approximately two years ago, I purchased my first Winchester flashlight and as any addiction goes, I have been trying to amass a first class flashlight collection since. Those fun childhood memories of cutting through the darkness with a trusty flashlight came flooding back. The older and more unique the flashlight…the better for me. I have been fortunate to acquire some of the earliest flashlights ever made. I have also been lucky enough to find early electric candlesticks. These were the perfect devise to help people transition from carrying candles to utilizing this new, much safer technology.

A wagon full of Winchester Flashlights and other Winchester Collectibles.

After acquiring a large and varied collection of flashlights, I’ve now decided to focus on early Winchester and Eveready items. Pictured is a portion of my flashlight collection. One of the most fascinating things about collecting flashlights is the incredible variety of different designs that have been created such as bicycle lights, vest lights, table top lights, penlights, projector lights, mini lanterns, toy gun lights, purse lights, and the list goes on and on. There is a light for every need in every size.

Assortment of Different Early Flashlights
Case full of solid Copper, brass and bronze Winchester Flashlights

Equally enticing is the incredible amount of flashlight advertising, which is extremely collectable and beautiful. Even the old batteries are now collectable and can be worth quite a bit of money.

It has been a fun and illuminating experience searching out these useful and often beautiful pieces of history. There is nothing like holding a solid copper flashlight in the palm of your hand, flipping the switch and having it brighten the room. They just don’t make them like they used to. Antique flashlights are truly little works of functional art.

Thanks to guest blogger – Kevin Kissel kkissel@triad.rr.com

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