Updated 14-XII-2019

Fostoria Lamp Company

The Fostoria Incandescent Lamp Company was founded in 1897, by Henry A. Tremaine and his brother-in-law John B. Crouse. They were later joined by his son John R. Crouse. The so-called Cromaines (CROuse and treMAINE) were prolific businessmen, founding or controlling some twenty companies in total. Their foray into the lighting industry commenced with their 1885 foundation of the Cleveland Carbon Company, the first of several operations for the manufacture of carbon electrodes for arc lamps. A similar operation, the Crouse-Tremaine Carbon Company was established at Fostoria in 1891.

Due to their extensive business connections in Ohio they recognised the booming demand for incandescent lamps, and in 1897 when demand outstripped the capacity of even the great General Electric, they were encouraged to set up their own operations. Meanwhile the Libbey Glass Company at the nearby city of Toledo had set up state of the art facilities for the blowing of glass bulbs, far more competitively than the giant Corning Glass Company. Crouse and Tremaine recognised that access to the new low-cost Libbey bulbs would give them a cost advantage, and in 1897 they established the Fostoria Incandescent Lamp Company. In 1898 the company was joined by Burton G. Tremaine, a particularly forward-thinking insurance businessman from Cleveland, and the four men together were later to play a major role in the transformation of the American incandescent lamp business.

In 1899 the company its established its own glassmaking operations, producing bulbs as well as tubing and rod. This was set up via another venture, the Fostoria Bulb & Bottle Company, located elswhere in Fostoria. Of course the two sites were effectively one large combined manufacturing operation, and the glassworks later became as the Lower Factory while this lamp plant was known as the Upper Factory.

In the year 1900 the incandescent lamp business was in a state of discord. The courts were filled with lawsuits that dealt with patent infringements, and bitter competition had driven lamp prices below actual manufacturing costs. Because of that situation lamp quality became inferior and, therefore, totally unacceptable. The small manufacturers also were not able to compete with the giant in the field, the General Electric Company, as it had the resources to do fundamental research and development work - resources the small manufacturers did not have.

In 1901 B.G. Tremaine sat next to Franklin S. Terry of the Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company, at the jobber's dinner in Chicago. Terry suggested consolidation of the small lamp companies so that all could benefit, by means of common laboratory facilities to strengthen their position againt GE. This catalyst led to the formation of the National Electric Lamp Company - at first created by the merger of the Fostoria and Sunbeam lamp companies. Later Terry & Tremanine persuaded other small manufacturers to join their enterprise or sell out to them. National grew from strength to strength in the following years. Each company maintained its own production facilities and brand name, but could benefit from central research and shared ideas, which benefitted all members tremendously in raising the performance and value of their lamps. Moreover each company was free to source lamps that it could not produce on its own from the other partner companies, to be produced under its own brand name.

Production of lamps at Fostoria ended in 1914, but the Fostoria brand name continued in use for many years longer with its products being produced by other National factories. Glass production at the other sites in Fostoria remained until 1919/1920 when natural gas supplies in the area dried up.

Address 530 South Poplar Street, Fostoria, Ohio, U.S.A.
Location 41.1520°E, -83.4110°N
Opened 1897
Closed 1914
Products Carbon Filament lamps, drawn tungsten filament lamps