The Bridgeport Brass Company
|Bridgeport Brass Company Parade Float, circa 1917. Wagon appears to be adorned with Bicycle Lamps and other items. Building marked: Kerosene Burners and Lamp Goods ~ The Bridgeport Brass Co.
Photo: The Connecticut Historical Society -- Enlarge image [+]
was incorporated in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on November 2, 1865 by Brooklyn manufacturers Daniel W. Kissam, John Davol, and Samuel R. Wilmot. John Davol served as the company's first president, with Samuel Wilmot as treasurer and Daniel Kissam as secretary, a position which he held for 28 years!1
The company was originally formed to make clock movements. Over the years the company continued to grow and produced a wide variety of brass items including fasteners, lamps, lamp burners and trimmings, electric lamp sockets, and countless other products. In 1875 the company sold it's clock making machinery to the Ansonia Brass and Copper Company and focused their efforts on the manufacture of lamps.2
In that same year, S.R. Wilmot was elected president of the company.3
|Bridgeport Brass' NEW YORK SLIP Burner
On wick tube: PAT APRIL 6, 1880
Daniel Kissam's Patent #226,176
"Their business has grown from year to year, so that it is safe to say that it is one of the largest manufacturing concerns in the world that produces articles in brass and copper." The manufacturing plant was located on the corner of Willard Street and Crescent Avenue and occupied a space of two hundred thousand square feet. The plant was state of the art, "complete in every part as money and ingenuity can make it." At this time, they employed over eight hundred workers. In addition to the offices and factory in Bridgeport, they maintained a large sales room at No. 19 Murray Street, New York City, and agencies in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. "In no country on the globe, where oil for illumination is used, is this vast concern unknown."4
In addition to lamps
and general lamp trimmings, the company also produced a line of bicycle lamps
, among them the very popular SEARCH LIGHT. Bicycle lamps were a key item when cycling became the rage in the 1890's. They also made German-silver, wire goods and manufactured rolled copper and brass. In 1884 the first long distance phone line that ran from New York to Boston was strung by the Southern New England Telephone Company for the American Bell Telephone Company using Bridgeport Brass copper wire.
|The LEADER Burner by Bridgeport Brass.
S.R. Wilmot's patent #195,241,
Patented September, 18, 1877.
This line remained in service until 1916.5
Around 1892, Bridgeport Brass acquired the rights to manufacture the "New Rochester" line of lamps for The Rochester Lamp Company
.6 Edward Miller & Company
from Meriden, Connecticut, had produced the original line of "Rochester" lamps.
S.R. Wilmot's LEADER Burner
became a very popular burner, as evidenced by the vast number of them surviving today. The burner was manufactured in three sizes: numbers one, two and three. It also came in two different varieties: the SLIP LEADER Burner with a removable gallery, and the SOLID LEADER burner, a one-piece unit without the removable gallery. The following patent dates may be found on the LEADER: June 1, 1869, Merrill & Carleton's 90,863; September 18, 1877, Wilmot's 195,241; November 18, 1879, Kissam's RE8969 (of 86,867); and April 6, 1880, Kissam's 226,176. Bridgeport Brass also manufactured a LINCOLN Burner (no connection to W.O. Lincoln the inventor) which they claim was very popular in the North, but was hard to sell in the South because of the name. They changed the name to the NATIONAL burner, and a large Southern business resulted.7
The LINCOLN burner carries the patent date of August 10, 1875, which corresponds to the design of the vent tube, patented by S.R. Wilmot, number 166,670. Bridgeport Brass also made an argand or side draft burner called the LEADER ARGAND, seen in the left margin.
William O. Lincoln
|The LEADER STUDENT LAMP
W.O. Lincoln's patent #221,078,
Patented October, 28, 1879.
contributed four patents to Bridgeport Brass between 1878 and 1879. His first patent for a hinged burner generally depicts the LEADER burner hinged on the long side. The base conforms to the design of the solid LEADER burners. This was patent number 207,048, received on August 13, 1878. I have not seen an example of this burner and cannot verify that it was ever produced. Lincoln's number 211,412 for a shade holder on January 14, 1879 is clearly designed for the LEADER burner and held on by a spring clamp. Other shade rings
were produced that fit snugly over the gallery and secure with a set screw. Lincoln also patented a wick tube on July 29, 1879, number 218,037. Perhaps his most readily recognized invention is the lamp he patented on October 28, 1879, number 221,078, which was marketed as the Leader Student Lamp, left. The LEADER burner was also featured on this lamp, due largely in part to the design of the central post and placement of the burner - a regular burner and chimney would not have adequate space on this lamp as the LEADER burner is situated at a ninety degree angle from the long axis of the fount, thereby clearing the center post which runs up under the shade. It is interesting to note that a witness to two of Lincoln's patents: August 13, 1878 and July 29, 1879 was Nelson M. Beach, treasurer of the company in the late 1890's.8
The Bridgeport Brass Company
The WILMOT Burner,
S.R. Wilmot's #108,078,
Patented October 4, 1870.
was assigned at least forty-five lighting-related patents between July 28, 1868 and May 18, 1909. See the patent table
below for details. Noteworthy inventors include Frank Rhind, assignor of twenty patents, and William O. Lincoln, assignor of four. S.R. Wilmot and D.W. Kissam, founding partners, each assigned one patent to Bridgeport Brass. Samuel R. Wilmot had a more illustrious inventing career than this would indicate. He is credited with at least nine lighting patents between 1865 and 1877, but only one assigned to Bridgeport Brass! Wilmot's associations deserve some further analysis:
||Dec. 6, 1864
||Leffingwell, J. G.
||Wilmot & Kissam Mfg Co.
||Jul. 18, 1865
||Wilmot, S. R.
||Dec. 11, 1866
||Wilmot, S. R.
||Mar. 17, 1874
||Wilmot, S. R.
||Wilmot Mfg. Co.
||Aug. 10, 1875
||Wilmot, S. R.
||Bridgeport Brass Co.
||Jan. 15, 1878
||Wilmot Mfg. Co.
The 1874 WILMOT Burner, detail of thumb wheel, note Bridgeport, Conn.
would suggest that S.R. Wilmot and D.W. Kissam were in business in Brooklyn, NY in at least 1864 - perhaps earlier or even later. The two then apparently took Davol in as a partner to form Bridgeport Brass, or was he a partner in their Brooklyn business? It seems that Wilmot continued his own manufacturing concern while involved with Bridgeport Brass, at least until the time when he became president. What has become known as the WILMOT burner was made by Wilmot Manufacturing Company in the 1870's. He relocated from Brooklyn to Bridgeport around the time he formed Bridgeport Brass. Wilmot was president of Bridgeport Brass from February, 1875 until March, 1877 when he resigned.6
Further research business of records in New York might determine how long Wilmot operated independently in Brooklyn and then in Bridgeport.
|Patents assigned to Bridgeport Brass between Sept. 29, 1868 - Nov. 8, 1898|
||[ more as discovered ]
|D = Design Patent, RE = Reissue of an earlier Patent|
To view any of the above patents, enter the number in the box below and select Query USPTO Database. This will take you to the specific patent images on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Database. Learn more about the USPTO here.
- 1 The Bridgeport Brass Company. A Historical Sketch of Bridgeport Brass Company: 1865-1925. n.p., 1926.
- 2 Lathrop, William G. The Brass Industry in the United States. New Haven, CT: The Wilson H. Lee Company, 1926.
- 3 The Bridgeport Brass Company.
- 4 Davis, William T., ed., The New England States, Their Constitutional, Judicial, Educational, Commercial, Professional and Industrial History, Volume II. Boston, Mass: D.H. Hurd & Co., ca 1896.
- 5 G. Fox & Co. Highways & Byways of Connecticut: A Century of Connecticut Living. (Hartford, CT: G. Fox & Co., 1947) 268-9.
- 6 The Bridgeport Brass Company.
- 7 Ibid.
- 8 Davis.
- Davis, William T., ed., The New England States, Their Constitutional, Judicial, Educational, Commercial, Professional and Industrial History, Volume II. Boston, Mass: D.H. Hurd & Co., ca 1896.
- G. Fox & Co. Highways & Byways of Connecticut: A Century of Connecticut Living. Hartford, CT: G. Fox & Co., 1947.
- Lathrop, William G. The Brass Industry in the United States. New Haven, CT: The Wilson H. Lee Company, 1926.
- The Bridgeport Brass Company. A Historical Sketch of Bridgeport Brass Company: 1865-1925. n.p., 1926.
- Thuro, Catherine, The Illuminator, Volume 1, Number 4, Winter 1987.
- Bridgeport Brass Company building [Photograph]. (ca.1917). Accession number 1990.133.2, The Connecticut Historical Society. Retrieved December 6, 2005, from Connecticut History Online [Photo CD number 0539 img0005.pcd ] on the World Wide Web: http://cho.uconn.edu/cgi-bin/Pscandoc.cgi?app=22&folder=1242&doc=1.