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Photoret Camera [click here to enlarge]

pocket watch
detective camera

Photo: Charles Leski

    a brief historical profile of     
The Magic Introduction Company

Koopman's Pocket Lamp Elias B. Koopman's Pocket Lamp,
Pat. no. 414,058, October 29, 1889

The Magic Introduction Company is an obscure company that has a connection to lighting that recently caught my eye. While there is not much information on The Magic Introduction Company per se, there is considerable documentation about the later incarnations of that company: the American Mutoscope Company, formed on December 27th 1895, which later became American Mutoscope & Biograph Company. While I will not go to much detail on the company, it is clear that this firm was one of the forerunners in American cinematography, pioneering camera equipment, lighting techniques and creative expression.

According to an advertisement dated 1894, The Magic Introduction Company was located at 321 Broadway, New York, New York. They manufactured magical toys, still banks and optical novelties, including subminiature "spy" cameras. The Photoret Watch Camera depicted in the left margin bears the patent dates July 25 and November 28, 1893. It took a six exposure disc film and sold for $2.50 in 1894.

One of the principals of The Magic Introduction Company, Elias Bernard Koopman, (b. 1860, d. 1929) was granted patent number 414,058 on October 29, 1889 (see photo above). His invention for a "pocket lamp" is in effect an early incarnation of the cigarette lighter. This patent was not assigned. A little more than one year later, on November 11, 1890, Elias B. Koopman and William W. McKenney were granted patent number 440,265, for a similar pocket lamp. This patent was assigned to The Magic Introduction Company. In the patent document they write:

This invention relates to that class 
of lamps or lighting devices which are
designed to be carried in the pocket, 
and may be used for lighting cigars, 
lamps, gas-burners, and many other 
similar purposes...
For additional patent information, and to view the actual patents, see the patent table below.

Kerosene Burner Lighter Kerosene Burner Lighter Kerosene Burner Lighter or Igniter by
The Magic Introduction Company, New York

Pictured at right is an interesting item, the Magic Lighter, made by The Magic Introduction Company. It is a lighting device or igniter for a kerosene lamp burner. Patents for devices like these were plentiful, dating back to the late 1860's - ingeniously conceived from the very beginning of the kerosene era. Unfortunately, few examples exist today and it would be quite rare to find one in the marketplace. This lighter bears the following seven patent dates:

  • November 27, 1877
  • August 6, 1878
  • November 12, 1878
  • May 25, 1880
  • September 10, 1882
  • May 31, 1881
  • October 10, 1882
This lighter is precisely pictured and described in a patent granted to William W. McKenney on August 2, 1892, almost a full ten years after the above patent dates. This is U.S. Patent number 480,207 and was assigned to The Magic Introduction Company. The patent diagram shows that this lighter can be used with both gas lamps, with an adapter that attaches to the burner tip, as well as be fitted to a kerosene lamp burner, as seen in the image below.
HBH Volunteer burner
HB&H VOLUNTEER Burner fitted with
W.W. McKenney's patent igniter,
Pat. No. 480,207 - August 2, 1892

The burner pictured is a Holmes, Booth & Haydens VOLUNTEER model, adapted for use with the lighter.

This particular one used a roll of fulminate of mercury caps for ignition. The caps were placed on a pin in the enlarged end, threaded around a roller on the tip, then back to the large end where they were attached to a slot in the pin of the thumb turn. To light a lamp, the user would advance the strip of fulminate caps with the winder which would cause sparks and ignite the fuel.

The May 31, 1881 patent corresponds to patent number 242,373 which was granted to Israel M. Rose for a similar lighting device. Rose is a patent holder for a number patents, including at least five for lighting devices. A lamp burner incorporating another of Rose's patents, number 536,446, dated March 26, 1895 is depicted below. This burner was manufactured by The Manhattan Brass Company.

The Rose patent igniter
Manhattam Brass Burner w/ I.M. Rose patent igniter, 536,446, March 26, 1895
Photo: Hugh Pribell

Additional research is needed to locate the other patents and determine their relevance to the igniter. The patent list below lists Elias B. Koopman's patents and those of Israel M. Rose. I have included John H. Farrel's patent number, 439,578 , relating to the Reliable Pocket Lamp, dated October 28, 1890. On the interior is stamped Manufactured by the Consolidated Fruit Jar Co. While this bears no connection to The Magic Introduction Company, it will give the reader another example of the products manufactured during this time period. This lighter still has some if its original caps intact. This type of roll or strip caps is similar to what The Magic Introduction Company igniter shown above would have used. There is a significant number of lighting device patents not listed. Should the reader be interested in additional patent information, here's a great place to begin your research.

MagnifyPocket Lamp & Igniting Device Patents

To view the complete patent, select the patent you wish to view, then click Query USPTO Database. This will take you to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Database. You are then just two mouse clicks away from viewing the actual patent. Learn more about the USPTO here.

Pat. No. Patent Date
Elias B. Koopman
pocket lamp
414,058 October 29, 1889
Elias B. Koopman & Wm. W. McKenney
pocket lamp
assigned to Magic Introduction Co.
440,265 November 11, 1890
John F. Nelson
lighting device
assigned to Magic Introduction Co.
442,534 December 9, 1890
C. P. Booth
lighting device
assigned to Magic Introduction Co.
475,996 May 31, 1892
Wm. W. McKenney
lighting device
assigned to Magic Introduction Co.
480,206 August 2, 1892
Wm. W. McKenney
lighting device
assigned to Magic Introduction Co.
480,207 August 2, 1892
John H. Farrel
pocket lamp
439,578 October 28, 1890
Israel M. Rose
lighting or igniting device
196,706 October 30, 1877
Israel M. Rose
lighting or igniting device
242,373 May 31, 1881
Israel M. Rose
lighting or igniting device
536,446 March 26, 1895
Israel M. Rose
bicycle lamp
588,115 August 10, 1897
Israel M. Rose
lighting or igniting device
402,617 May 7, 1889

  • International Cinematographers Guild,

  • Who's Who of Victorian Cinema,


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