Updated 04-I-2018

William P. Zabel

This article is based on a document of fellow lamp engineer and collector Edward J. Covington, which appeared on his website of biographical sketches of persons involved in the lamp industry. Following his passing in February 2017 and with kind permission of his family, Ed's words have been preserved and subsequently expanded with new material by this author, to maintain continued access to the research he initiated.

William P. Zabel (01 Apr 1886 - 16 Sep 1977)2 was an outstanding electrical engineer who was the holder of 18 United States patents. His work involved the development of incandescent and fluorescent light sources and was primarily in the manufacturing phase of the lamp business.

Zabel was a native of Harvard, Illinois and received a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1909. He started to work in the Engineering Department of the National Electric Lamp Association as a student engineer in 1909. In January of 1911 he transferred to the Cleveland Wire Division as foreman. Zabel then went to work, in August of 1915, in the Lamp Development Laboratory at Nela Park.

William Zabel investigated various aspects of tungsten wires made by Aladar Pacz, the developer of nonsag tungsten. Results of these studies were reported during the time period of 1915-1919. He was also concerned with the design and manufacture of incandescent filaments, as well as electrodes for fluorescent lamps, as indicated by the following list of his U.S. patents. Zabel was also issued 18 Canadian and 2 German patents.

Zabel's single departure from manufacturing problems appears to be a design for a decorative candle incandescent lamp. The first page of that patent (U.S. 2,278,816) is shown below (image unfortunately no longer available).

The two pictures shown below were kindly supplied by Tim Tromp. The lamp pictured is in his collection. Although it is not certain, it might be that this design never went into production. It is surmised that this lamp was made in a "model shop". (images unfortunately no longer available).

From 1947 to 1952 Zabel was a consulting engineer. He retired in 1952.

William Zabel married Emma C. Schwan on October 22nd 1913 and they had a son, Paul.

Zabel passed away in Fort Myers, Florida after suffering a stroke. He was interred in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.

The writer thanks Tim Tromp for the use of two of his photographs of an engineering sample of Zabel's decorative candle lamp.

  1. US 1,403,727 - 1922/01/17 - Wire Cleaning Method and Apparatus - with L. E. Reakes
  2. US 1,661,866 - 1928/03/06 - Apparatus for Cutting Wire into Lengths
  3. US 1,752,828 - 1930/04/01 - Method and Apparatus for Mounting Filaments
  4. US 1,834,781 - 1931/12/01 - Method for Treating Filaments - with George E. Inman
  5. US 1,992,797 - 1935/02/26 - Method of and Apparatus for Treating Filaments
  6. US 1,992,798 - 1935/02/26 - Method of Treating Leading-In Wire
  7. US 2,142,865 - 1939/01/03 - Method of Manufacturing Filaments
  8. US 2,165,105 - 1939/07/04 - Apparatus for Manufacturing Filaments - with Robert F. Krejci
  9. US 2,179,367 - 1939/11/07 - Method and Apparatus for Treating Filaments
  10. US 2,278,816 - 1942/04/07 - Incandescent Electric Lamp
  11. US 2,371,205 - 1945/03/13 - Coiled Filament or Cathode and Method of Manufacture
  12. US 2,422,457 - 1947/06/17 - Coating Apparatus
  13. US 2,441,863 - 1948/05/18 - Electrode for Discharge Devices
  14. US 2,445,706 - 1948/07/20 - Vapor-Supplying Cartridge
  15. US 2,479,192 - 1949/08/16 - Cathode
  16. US 2,479,193 - 1949/08/16 - Articulated Cathode
  17. US 2,518,970 - 1950/08/15 - Method of Manufacturing Vapor Supplying Cartridges
  18. US 2,545,909 - 1951/03/20 - Apparatus for Applying Emission Material to Cathodes
  19. US 2,664,361 - 1953/12/29 - Method and Apparatus for Applying Electron Emission Material

References & Bibliography
  1. "Book of the Incas", 1928.
  2. "Obituary, William P. Zabel", The Plain Dealer, Sep 18 1977, Section 3, p.17.