Updated 12-I-2020

Mattoon Lamp Plant

The Mattoon Lamp Plant was opened in 1946 and produced a broad variety of special lamp types for industrial, photographic and projection applications. This included tungsten halogen lamps, which later grew to large volumes for use in general accent and display lighting. Mattoon produced some of GE's highest technology lamps, but in the early 2000s these were gradually replaced by energy-saving discharge and LED types and the remaining halogen lamps became low-cost commodities. This sadly brought Mattoon's 70 years of lampmaking to a close in 2017.

The General Electric Mattoon Lamp Plant

Address GE Mattoon Lamp Plant #3341, 1501 South 19th Street, Mattoon, Illinois 61938-5956, U.S.A.
Location 39.4699°N, -88.3803°E.
Opened 1946.
Closed 2017.
Floorspace Unknown.
Products Incandescent General Service high wattage, Lumiline, Medium & Mogul Bi-Post, 4-pin valve base projectors, Tungsten Halogen Linear, Capsules, Infrared, Projection, Studio/Theatre, Photoflash.

Start of Operations
GE Lighting's centenary history book "A Century of Light" by James A. Cox states that the Mattoon Lamp Plant was opened in 1946 to provide additional capacity for fluorescent lamp manufacture. No other references mention fluorescent production at this site and its accuracy is questionable, however if Mattoon did commence with fluorescent production it seems that this product did not remain for long. The factory quickly assumed a role in manufacturing specialty incandescent lamps.

Incandescent Lamps
Many of the lamps that have been identified from Mattoon are either very high or very low wattage types that fall outside the standard mass-produced range. For instance, general service lamps in large bulbs of 300W and upwards, and miniature types such as the S-11 and C-7 indicator and nightlight bulbs.

Mattoon also took on the production of lamp types having unusual glass constructions and non-standard glass-to-metal seals. At least as early as 1960 it was home to the production of the company's Lumiline incandescent lamps, which feature a tubular bulb closed by a pair of chromium-iron discs fused to the ends of the tube.

Following the 1961 closure of the East Cleveland Lamp Works situated within GE's Nela Park headquarters, all of the projection and photographic lamps having conventional glass stem and drop-seal constructions with ordinary brass collar bases were relocated to the Bellevue Lamp Plant, along with all tungsten halogen and photo flashtubes. Mattoon took on the rest of the incandescent projectors having 4-pin valve bases, and the large high power lamps having Medium & Mogul Bi-Post bases.

During the later 1990s GE began to rationalise its manufacturing footprint, where possible grouping similar types of lamps within the same factory. It was decided at that time that Mattoon should focus on the high volume production of tungsten halogen lamps for general lighting service. Meanwhile in 1991 GE took over the lampmaking of one of its former competitors Thorn Lighting in the UK, which operated a very powerful factory at Leicester for the manufacture of all kinds of photographic, projection, studio and theatre lamps. In 1997/98 it was decided that the Mattoon Medium & Mogul Bi-Post lamps, which had similar applications, should be relocated to England and combined with the rest of the Leicester production.

A few years later the 4-pin Valve-base projectors and Lumiline incandescent lamps were relocated to Mexico, and this appears to have marked the end of incandescent lampmaking at Mattoon. It is not known when the production of the non-standard incandescent lamps for general lighting service lamps at Mattoon was stopped, but these are believed to have been relocated to other USA factories much earlier.

Tungsten Halogen Lamps
Following the closure of the Bellevue Lamp Plant in 1985, Mattoon grew significantly by absorbing the Quartzline tungsten halogen production for both general lighting as well as photgraphic and projection applications. The latter product range was significantly broedened at Mattoon and it became GE's principal plant for the production of specialty high wattage Stage, Studio, Theatre and Television halogen lamps. However along with the medium and mogul bi-post range, all single ended types were relocated to Leicester in 1998.

One of the other products absorbed from Bellevue was the company's new MR16 Precise halogen range - a spinoff of the Quartzline MR16 projection lamps which GE had re-positioned in 1981 to enter the new application of high value interior accent & display spotlighting. At the time of their transfer to Mattoon these lamps were still very new and not yet widely adopted, but the later 1980s saw an enormous boom in their popularity. During the following decade it was almost unthinkable to be able to walk along any major shopping district in the western hemisphere without encountering thousands of these sparkling new light sources lighting shop windows, and GE held the reputation for manufacturing the original and best lamps. The production at Mattoon grew tremendously during this period and it became one of GE's richer lamp plants, attracting significant investment in the further development of the MR16 Precise range.

Another new product developed at Mattoon was GE's line voltage glass halogen technology for general lighting lamps. This first made its debut with the 1987 launch of the Performance-Plus halogen retrofit. These were developed to upgrade the performance of ordinary A-line incandescent lamps and consisted of a 51W or 90W single-ended glass-halogen capsule within a heavy-walled outer bulb - a necessity for safety, since the inner capsules could sometimes explode at end of life. These new lamps were given the TB-19 bulb shape to impart a high-tech new appearance, its design clearly having been based on the Electronic Halarc compact metal halide lamps that GE had tried without success to introduce a few years earlier. The halogen lamps offered extended lifetime of 2000 hours and 10-15% energy saving vs ordinary incandescent lamps, without loss of light output.

The glass halogen capsules were also employed to great success in PAR lamp envelopes, as pioneered by Sylvania several years earlier. GE was quick to catch up in this new area and in 1988 launched a full range of PAR38, PAR30 and PAR20 Performance-Plus lamps. These were all based on the new hardglass halogen capsules from Mattoon, being sent to Lexington Lamp Plant in USA and Oakville Lamp Plant in Canada for finishing into glued PAR lamps.

In 2013 GE made a major investment in its North American manufacturing operations, with the decision to mass produce halogen energy-saving A-line lamps in the USA. These were based on an improved design of single-ended hardglass halogen capsule which was rendered explosion-free, thanks to the incorporation of a fuse. This enabled the expensive heavy-walled glass bulb to be replaced with an ordinary soft-glass A19 bulb shell for improved consumer appearance and dramatically reduced cost. Mattoon received investment of around US$ 10 million to build additional capacity for the manufacture of the inner hardglass halogen capsules, which were initially sent to GE's lamp plants in Mexico for finishing into A-line medium based lamps. A year later in 2014 the lamps became fully American-made when finishing into A-line lamps was transferred from Mexico to GE's other USA plants at Circleville and Bucyrus.

In the early 2000s Mattoon's principal product lines were its glass halogen inner capsules for supply to other lamp assembly facilities, and the MR16 and MR11 lamp ranges which were used primarily for general lighting applications along with some specialty projection niches. Regrettably both of these product families came under increasing pressure after the early 2010s.

The PAR halogen lamps were energy-hungry sources widely used in retail accent and display lighting, and rising energy costs as well as the technical superiority of new developments in ceramic metal halide lamps saw the gradual phase-out of these types. This led to the closure of one of Mattoon's principal customers, the Lexington Lamp Plant, in 2013.

The MR16 range then came under intense pressure from increasingly competitive LED alternatives, as well as stiff price competition from low cost Chinese imports of considerably inferior quality. For a number of years GE positioned its American-made Precise MR16 range as the top performing products which were sold only to premium customers willing to pay the higher prices for the industry-leading performance, but over the years that portion of the market gradually dwindled towards zero - these customers of course being the first to invest in the newer LED technology. As a result this department at Mattoon was running significantly under its capacity.

Thirdly, the venture to produce energy-saving A-Line lamps in the USA was coming under increasing pressure. On the one hand, federal energy policies were moving towards an enforced phase-out of these lamps so as to attain the still greater energy savings possible with compact fluorescent and LED alternatives - and on the other side foreign competition was sharply increasing.

In April 2017 GE announced the closure of Mattoon Lamp Plant after 70 years of lampmaking. In parallel the Circleville lamp assembly plant was closed, but Bucyrus remained open and switched to sourcing imported halogen capsules for its A-line lamps.

Photographs - General
Mattoon Lamp Plant, c. 1940-50s Mattoon Lamp Plant Mattoon Lamp Plant, 2017 Mattoon Lamp Plant, 2018
Mattoon Lamp Plant Entrance Mattoon Lamp Plant Entrance, 2017 Open House 2017 - Mirror Lamps Open House 2017 - Bi-Post Lamps

Photographs - Glass Halogen
Glass Halogen Mount Mill, 2013 Glass Halogen Mount, 2013 Glass Halogen Pinch m/c, 2014 Glass Halogen Pinch m/c, 2014
Glass Halogen Pinch Detail, 2014 Glass Halogen Pinch Detail, 2014 Glass Halogen Pinch Detail, 2014 Glass Halogen Inspection, 2014

Photographs - Medium & Mogul Bi-Post
Medium Bipost Cup Preheat Medium Bipost Cup Preheat Medium Bipost Post Inserting Medium Bipost Post Inserting
Medium Bipost Post Inserting Medium Bipost Stem Inspection E2 m/c - Glass Cane Cutting Filament Supports Bridgemaking
Medium Bipost Mounts Medium Bipost Mounting Medium Bipost Filament Welding Medium Bipost Mount Flashing
Medium Bipost Getter Painting Medium Bipost Sealing Medium Bipost Sealing Medium Bipost Sealing
Medium Bipost Sealing Medium Bipost Sealing Medium Bipost Sealing Medium Bipost Pre-Exhaust
Medium Bipost Pre-Exhaust Medium Bipost Pre-Exhaust Medium Bipost Exhaust Medium Bipost Exhaust
Medium Bipost Exhaust Medium Bipost Exhaust Medium Bipost Tip-off Medium Bipost Tip-off
Medium Bipost Ageing Mogul Bipost E3 Flare m/c Mogul Bipost E3 Flare m/c Mogul Bipost Thimble Beading
Mogul Bipost Thimble Beading Mogul Bipost Cup Preheat Mogul Bipost Post Inserting Mogul Bipost Post Inserting
Mogul Bipost Mounting Mogul Bipost Mounting Mogul Bipost Mounting Mogul Bipost Mounting
Mogul Bipost Sealing Bipost Lamp Testing Bipost Lamp Inspection Bipost Lamp Packing

Examples of Mattoon Lamps
Lumiline Incandescent Halogen A-Line TB19 Air Beacon MS-25015-2 Lighthouse Q1000T20BP Studio Q750T20-4CL Studio Q2000T11-4CL

References & Bibliography
  1. A Century of Light, James A. Cox, published by The Benjamin Company / Rutgers, 1979, ISBN 0-87502-062-3, p.86.
  2. GE to Close Mattoon Lamp Plant by August 2017, Gene J. Pusakar, Will Illinois Public Media, 12 Aug 2016.
  3. General Electric Plant holds Open House before Closure, AP News, 14 Jun 2017.
  4. Mattoon's GE Lighting Plant to have its Final Day of Production, Brendan Bakala, Illinois Policy, 09 Aug 2017.