History of Flashlights

Alyssa Mertes

Kyrsten Ledger

Promo Expert

Published: September 7th, 2018

Updated: April 8th, 2019

Many companies have found ways to improve the flashlight’s original design and dependability. You can find them in all different shapes and sizes, from little keychains to flashlight apps on cell phones to flashlights the size of a standard radio. There are even underwater flashlights! Today, Mother Earth can rest easy knowing that flashlights are becoming more efficient and causing less waste.

What led to the invention of the flashlight? How does a flashlight work? Let’s light up that noggin and learn about the history of the flashlight.

Hour Glass

History of the Flashlight Timeline

Aside from the sun, the discovery of light has been around since the dawn of time. Take a look at how humankind’s discovery of fire sparked the history of the flashlight!

  • 600 B.C.

    Source: https://carinadacp.files.wordpress.com

    The Ancient Greeks discovered static electricity by rubbing fur on amber. The two materials together formed an attraction that led to the release of static energy. This led to the discovery of electricity as a natural resource.

  • 250 B.C.

    Source: https://www.universetoday.com

    Archeologists have also found clay pots filled with vinegar and copper on the inside. They believe these may have been ancient batteries to produce light used by the Romans and Persians.

  • 1800

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    Alessandro Volta created the first modern day battery. It was called the voltaic pile and was made up of zinc, copper, and vinegar. It was the first battery that created a constant flow of electricity and allowed scientists to use it in a controlled environment.

  • 1802

    Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org

    Humphry Davy invented the first electric light. His invention was called the Electric Arc Lamp, and although it produced light, it was too bright and didn’t last long. It worked by connecting wires to his battery and a piece of carbon.

  • Mid-Late 1800s

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    The first electric lightbulb was invented. Davy is often credited by historians as the first to invent the lightbulb, however, it wasn’t practical because it burned out too quickly. In 1879, it was Thomas Edison who invented the first lightbulb to burn continuously for 13 hours.

  • 1888

    Source: https://oldchristmastreelights.com

    A man by the name of Conrad Hubert founded the American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company. This company manufactured and sold battery-powered items such as illuminated scarf pins. Hubert eventually changed the name of his company to Eveready®.

  • 1897-1902

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    David Misell invented the first flashlight and patented it. Hubert bought Misell’s patent and the first Eveready® flashlight was produced. This led to the first Eveready® trademark, which appeared on the end caps of flashlights.

  • 1926

    Source: https://ebth-com-production.imgix.net

    Eveready® introduced the company’s first flashlight that gave customers the flexibility to hang up their flashlights wherever they wanted. The company took a standard flashlight and added a ring to the end of the handle, which made flashlights more accessible in an emergency.

  • 1935

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    William H. Byler invented the black light. Black light, or ultraviolet rays, are invisible to the human eye and require fluorescent colored items to emit a bright glow that we can see. The use of blacklight flashlights have helped discover hidden evidence at crime scenes and aided in anti-theft protection.

  • 1966

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    Thermoplastic molded flashlights were introduced. This allowed Energizer® to develop lights in new shapes and sizes, making flashlights cheaper, lighter, and more efficient.

  • 1970

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    Energizer® introduced the first waterproof flashlight. This made people’s lives safer in emergency situations that involved water like thunderstorms, flooding, or hurricanes.

  • Late 1970s-Early 1980s

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    The first rechargeable flashlight was introduced for emergency personnel. Having a flashlight that recharged itself was revolutionary and gave police officers and firefighters the ability to help civilians without fear of their flashlight giving out.

  • 1986

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    Playskool, now owned by Hasbro, invented the first flashlight toy for children with a promotional logo. Instead of playing with emergency flashlights, kids could now have their own!

  • Late 1990’s

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    LED, or light-emitting diodes, made their debut. LED lights emit a stronger light and last longer. These lights are highly efficient compared to incandescent lightbulbs and eventually became standard in many devices.

  • 2016

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    A company called Power Practical created a flashlight and mini flashlight called Sparkr that worked as a flashlight and lighter. Sparkr is rechargeable, lasts a minimum of 4 hours, acts as a lantern or flashlight, and uses plasma instead of butane.

  • 2018

    Source: ugc.imgix.net

    A company by the name Adaptalux invented a “smart” flashlight called GLOW. This flashlight acts as a magnet, lamp, and lantern. Its lighting features can also turn it into a candle, night light, alarm clock, or lava lamp.

Quote

It was the kind of invention that reshaped the world and the way people looked at the possibilities in the world.

– Robert Freidell, co-author Edison’s Electric Light

So Easy a Caveman Could Do It

Although flashlights continue to become more technological, it all started with the discovery of fire and the need to have light with us at all times. Our ancestors learning how to control fire sparked the evolution of our species because it made us more social, improved our protection, and increased technological processes. Eventually this led to the discovery of other natural resources such as electricity, or using natural gas, water, or the sun as additional power sources.

Historians, anthropologists, and archeologists are unable to agree on when fire was specifically discovered in history. The years range from as little as 200,000 years ago to millions of years ago. One thing that is agreed upon though is that without the ability to control fire, we likely wouldn’t be here today. Fire opened a lot of doors for civilization.

Although fire and electricity are two different things, they work together. Fire is the result of a chemical reaction, whereas electricity is the result of charged particles in motion (electrical current) or not (static electricity). If an electrical current produces enough heat to start the combustion process, then fire is created. By harnessing fire, humankind was eventually able to backtrack and harness the power that created fire in the first place: electricity. This lead to the insvention of batteries, which used electricity to power electronics. By combining batteries and their electric currents with the lightbulb the flashlight was born.

Quote

Fire is probably the greatest ever discovery made by man, excepting language.

– Charles Darwin, famous naturalist and author of “The Origin of Species”

Eveready® Company

Almost a century after the battery was invented, Conrad Hubert founded the Eveready® Battery Company. Hubert was a Russian immigrant who came to America and ran a number of companies that never profited. It wasn’t until he opened up Eveready®, originally a novelty shop, that his business finally took off. The shop should battery-powered items to the public, with its most popular item being a battery-powered flashing tie clasp.

In 1898 a man by the name of David Misell, who worked for Hubert, invented the flashlight. Hubert was so impressed that he bought Misell’s patent for the device. These first flashlights were handmade from crude paper and fiber tubes, with a bulb and a rough brass reflector. Before people started calling them flashlights, they were called the electric hand torch. Because batteries and bulbs were still being perfected at the time, the light source often flickered due to poor connectivity. Since people were only getting flashes of light, they were nicknamed flashlights and the name stuck!

After several improvements to the flashlight over the next few years, all of Hubert’s work finally paid off. Over 100 years later you can still find Eveready® products. In 2000, Energizer® became the parent company of Eveready®. However, the previous companies had worked side-by-side before. For example, in 1966 Eveready® rolled out its first thermoplastic molded flashlight, allowing Energizer® to create lights in new shapes and sizes. By melting pellets of plastic and forcing them into a mold before they cool, you can give the material any shape you want it to have. Thermoplastic molding, also known as injection molding, is still a common process for many items, not just flashlights!

Just like Eveready®, Energizer® began with batteries. As new and improved technology became available, Energizer® and Eveready® continued to create better flashlights. From making them more efficient, to rechargeable or waterproof, Energizer® keeps the flashlight going and going.

Check out this Eveready commercial from 1980!

Did you know?

The power in batteries are measured by volts. The name comes from Alessandro Volta, the Italian physicist who invented the first modern-day battery!

Fire Drill

After Eveready® invented and distributed their electric hand torch to first responders, they started creating flashlights for the average citizen. The invention of the flashlight became a lifesaver for families. People were now able to purchase flashlights instead of relying on candles, fires, or kerosene lamps to see in the night. This made access to light much safer because flashlights didn’t have open flames. Even today, candles cause an estimated 15,600 house fires, 150 deaths, and over 1,000 injuries every year! Imagine what those numbers would be like if flashlights didn’t exist. Not to mention, flashlights are more practical in the event of an emergency. Their on and off switch make them easier to use, and they won’t go out with a gust of wind or in the rain.

In the event of an emergency, it’s important to be prepared. Having flashlights in multiple places with spare batteries nearby is recommended by first responders. Here is a list of places you can store flashlights and batteries to be prepared for your next emergency:

  • • Under kitchen/bathroom sink
  • • Garage
  • • First-aid kit
  • • Car glove compartment
  • • Every bedroom
  • • Spare closet
  • • Basement

When thinking of places to store your flashlight, make sure it’s in a dry, cool location that’s convenient and easy to reach. Whether you use your flashlight regularly or just for emergencies, you should replace the batteries every few months. If you don’t want to remember to replace the batteries every few months, that’s fine! You can store an unopened pack of batteries where you store your flashlight to ensure your flashlight will always work in an emergency.

Source: https://www.njcu.edu
Fun Fact!

The largest battery in the world has the capacity to power an entire town of about 12,000 people for up to 7 minutes!

How Do Flashlights Work

Flashlights work through a series of mechanisms that ensure the flashlight will produce light every time it’s flicked on. When batteries are placed inside a flashlight, they come in contact with strips of metal. After the flashlight switch is flipped ON, the batteries and metal strips create an electrical current, producing light. To fully understand how a flashlight works, you must know the parts that make up a standard flashlight.

1. Case: The main structure of the flashlight, which houses all the parts of the flashlight, including the lightbulb and batteries. When you’re holding the handle of the flashlight, you are also holding the case.

2. Contacts: A very thin strip of metal inside the flashlight, usually made of copper or brass. The contacts are in place to complete the connection between the electrical circuits. Without this connection, the flashlight wouldn’t work.

3. Switch: The lifeforce of the flashlight. The switch tells the flashlight when to activate and deactivate. When turned ON, all the parts of the flashlight know to get the electricity flowing, giving you light. You will continue to have light until the flow is broken. The flow can be broken by turning the switch OFF (or when the batteries die).

4. Reflector: Located on both sides of the lightbulb. The reflectors are pieces of plastic covered in an aluminum coating that act like a mirror. When the flashlight is turned ON, the light is reflected off the aluminum and creates a steady stream of light.

5. Lamp: The light source of the flashlight that produces visible light when electricity flows through the lightbulb. The lamp can either be an LED or incandescent bulb. Incandescent bulbs can burn out and will need to be replaced. LED bulbs are considered “unbreakable” and lifetime lamps.

6. Lens: Clear, plastic piece at the tip of the flashlight. Its purpose is solely to protect the glass lamp from breaking on impact.

7. Batteries: Power source of the flashlight. The size or amount of batteries will depend on the type of flashlight.

All of these parts work together to create a closed circuit. Without one of the parts in working order, the circuit remains open and the electricity will not flow. When the switch is pushed into the ON position, the contact strips connect and begin the flow of electricity, generated by the battery. When the switch is flipped to the OFF position, then the contact strips separate and the flow of electricity is broken.

Different Types of Flashlights

All flashlights are made up of the same mechanisms, however, they come in all different sizes, shapes, and uses. Some flashlights are job specific, while some can be used every day or for certain hobbies. Check out all these unique flashlights!

Everyday Flashlights: Flashlights that are used in the event of a power outage or day-to-day use would be considered your standard everyday flashlights. They’re usually tucked away in your first aid kit, hanging up in your garage, or in your car’s glovebox.

Mobile Flashlights: Many cell phones come equipped with a flashlight already installed inside the device. Since many people have their cell phones on them at all times, mobile flashlights can come in handy and can be turned on in one swipe.

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Waterproof Flashlights: There is a huge difference between waterproof and water-resistant flashlights. Many flashlights are water-resistant and may be used outdoors. Truly waterproof flashlights are typically pricier and can be submerged in water. Some even float!

Source: www.dorcy.com

Headlights: No, we are not talking about the lights on your car. We mean the lights you can put around your head so that you can see for hands-free use! Whether you like exploring caves or work in a mine, a headlight will be a perfect match for you.

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Tactical Flashlights: These flashlights are used in conjunction with firearms to make sure the right target is illuminated. Many law enforcement officers or soldiers are equipped with these types of flashlights.

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Penlights: A small flashlight shaped like a pen used by medical professionals. Its shape allows doctors to conveniently store and use the flashlight whenever they need to check your eyes, nose, ears, or throat at your next visit.

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Rechargeable Flashlights: A couple things can make a flashlight rechargeable. The batteries inside are rechargeable, it can be charged via a USB port, or it can be mechanically powered by the user.

Keychain Flashlights: These make excellent gifts for stocking stuffers or promotional products. Better yet, you could also use them as party favors. Kids love them because they’re just the right size for their hands.

Quote

The flashlight is another underappreciated invention–until you need it.

– Tom Philbin author100 Greatest Inventions of all Time

Promotional Flashlights

Flashlights have played such a crucial role in emergency situations that having different types of flashlights in and around your home is never a bad idea. The best part about the necessity of flashlights is that any company can promote their brand with these handy tools.

From banks to colleges to automotive companies, a flashlight is an excellent promotional tool. An Informed Parent. Info is a company based out of New York whose goal is to increase the college graduation rates for the African-American community. One of their many focuses is campus safety. By handing out flashlights, or better yet flashlight pens, students will have a multipurpose tool to use in class or on school grounds in the event of an emergency. Meanwhile, automotive companies have given away keychain flashlights so that their customers always have a light on them when they’re in the car.

Kids were also in on the action, and soon enough Playskool® developed their own version. Kids could now light up their bedrooms, or camp out in the living room with a trusty flashlight that glowed white, green, or red. This provided additional brand exposure from Playskool® and gave kids a way to be just like adults. Check out some of these creative flashlights:

Flashlights are a useful tool to have stored in multiple places, however they can be fun and creative for some. It’s safe to say though that emergencies happen often. Since not everyone carries around a flashlight, giving someone a sense of safety and security will give your brand a lasting impression.

Source: cdn.protoolreviews.com

Why Do We Need Flashlights?

Aside from using flashlights as promos, they have many other uses. But, why do we need them? Excellent question! Long story short, we need flashlights because we aren’t able to see that well in the dark and let’s face it, power outages happen. It’s important to have a flashlight on you or near you at all times. That’s because emergencies aren’t predictable, and you’ll never know when a flashlight will be a necessity.

To be clear, by flashlights we do mean actual flashlights. We know cell phones now come equipped with flashlights in them, but in a true emergency your cell phone should be used for communication, not as your main light source. For example, if you’re driving at night and get a flat tire, it’s better to use your phone to call 911, not as a flashlight to change your tire.

Without flashlights, certain jobs wouldn’t be possible. Electricians, bomb squads, police officers, firefighters, mechanics, and many more rely on flashlights to get their job done. Imagine if police officers could only help people during the day or the bomb squad cut the wrong wire because they didn’t have more accurate lighting.

Aside from emergencies and certain jobs, flashlights are needed for nighttime adventures or personal security. Some people are scared of the dark and may need a mini flashlight or flashlight keychain to feel safe. On the other hand, for those that are night owls or love camping, flashlights are needed to go on a nighttime hike or take a bathroom break.

Plain and simple, everyone needs a flashlight! They’re necessary for a lot of emergencies, many professions require them, and they’re essential the next time you need to see in the dark. Every household should have at least one flashlight, however having extras will never be discouraged.

Stats for Success

LED lights can last anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 hours.

You can buy promotional flashlights as low as $0.55 apiece.

The flashlight market is expected to reach $8.2 Billion by the end of 2025.

The Bottom Line

Flashlights keep you out of the dark and safe in the event of an emergency. From first responders, active duty members, parents, or children, everybody can benefit from a flashlight. Light up someone’s world and shed some light on your brand with promotional flashlights!

Kyrsten Ledger

Kyrsten Ledger

Kyrsten’s vast knowledge of promotional giveaways and marketing has led to several hit articles. She has also published work for PPB Magazine, a publication from the Promotional Products Association International.

References

Adaptalux Ltd. (2018, July 17). GLOW: The Smart Flashlight, Lamp & Lantern. Retrieved from https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adaptalux/glow-the-smart-flashlight-lamp-and-lantern/description

Armytek Optoelectronics inc. (2015, March 27). Retrieved from https://www.armytek.com/light-will-rule.-the-true-history-of-flashlights..html

Atkinson, N. (2015, December 23). Who Discovered Electricity? Retrieved from https://www.universetoday.com/82402/who-discovered-electricity/

Cohen, J. (2012, April 02). Human Ancestors Tamed Fire Earlier Than Thought. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/human-ancestors-tamed-fire-earlier-than-thought

Flashlight Care. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.energizer.com/about-flashlights/flashlight-care

Flashlight History. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.energizer.com/about-flashlights/flashlight-history

History of the Light Bulb. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bulbs.com/learning/history.aspx

Hop Back Through Time with The Energizer® Bunny™. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.energizer.com/energizer-bunny/bunny-timeline

Neiger, C. (2018, June 28). When Was the First Battery Invented? Retrieved from https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/inventions/when-was-the-first-battery-invented.htm

P. (2016, November 1). Fire Up No Matter The Occassion. Retrieved from https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/powerpractical/sparkr-and-sparkr-mini/description

Rechargeable Flashlights Light The Way to The Future. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/159895/technology/rechargeable_flashlights_light_the_way_to_the_future.html

The History of Flashlights. (2016, August 22). Retrieved from https://gallantry.com/blogs/journal/the-history-of-flashlights

Who Invented the Light Bulb? (2013, April). Retrieved from https://didyouknow.org/who-invented-the-light-bulb/