Our manufacturers - today: Coleman

It started as simply as this: In 1900, a young man bent on replenishing his educational funds so he could complete his last year of law school set out to sell lamps in what is now Kingfisher, Oklahoma. He had first encountered the lamp that would change the course of his life in a drugstore window in Alabama. Plagued with such poor vision he sometimes had to ask classmates to read aloud to him, the brilliant light from that window stopped W.C. Coleman® in his tracks. He went in to inquire about it and discovered he was able to read even the small print on a medicine bottle by this light.

The lamps had mantles, not wicks, and were fueled by pressurised gasoline instead of coal oil. Their light was clean and white. And when Coleman® heard the company was looking for salesmen, he used the funds he'd accumulated to buy inventory. He could sell these lamps in a flash to merchants who wanted to keep their shops open in the evening.

As it turned out, he couldn't sell even one. Merchants in Kingfisher had just been stung by a lighting salesman with a less-than-stellar product. Shopkeepers would not be swayed. So, using the ingenuity and resourcefulness that would later build his company, W.C. decided to sell a lighting service instead of the lamps themselves. He drew up contracts with a "no light, no pay" clause and, with the risk removed, customers signed up.

Soon Kingfisher was a beacon on the prairie. The service eventually expanded to cities as far west as San Diego and Las Vegas. In 1902, Coleman® relocated to Wichita, Kansas, reasoning it would be about the center of his potential territory. As it turned out, his territory would one day come to encompass the world.

Coleman® was able to purchase the inventory and patents for the Efficient Lamp in 1901. After years of servicing the lamps, he knew he could design a better product. And he knew there would be a voracious market. Electric service was undependable in urban areas and unavailable in rural areas - it would be for many years to come. In 1909, Coleman® introduced a portable table lamp that became a staple in rural homes. And in 1914, the young company introduced the lantern that made it famous. At 300 candlepower, it could light the far corners of a barn and provided good light in every direction for 100 yards. The Coleman® lantern extended the time farmers and ranchers could work, significantly increasing productivity. It changed life in rural America. And during WWI, the government declared it an essential item. Nearly 70,000 were distributed. By the close of the decade, the company was a bona fide manufacturing concern. It had an organized sales force, a research and development department, and factory output had increased from 120 lamps in 1909 to 50,000 by the year 1920.

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