a growing archive of information about antique and vintage pyrophoric devices
Dr. Carl Auer von Welsbach discovered 4 elements and invented the gas-incandescent light, the metal filament lightbulb, and the ferrocerium flint for lighters. His main scientific work was the rare earth elements and radioactive substances. The companies AUERGESELLSCHAFT Berlin, Treibacher Industries AG, OSRAM, and others were founded by him. Also, he was the first sound recording artist and first color photographer in Austria.
In 1922 appeared the Dunhill lighter, a pocket lighter which carried a substantial amount of fuel and which could be operated by one hand. Its reliability depended on the simplicity of its design and the care with which it was made, and it can be pointed out that, in lighters of various shapes and sizes, the design of this original model is still being used. Five years later Mr. Aronson produced a lighter which was operated by a thumb piece that turned the flint wheel and extinguished the flame when the pressure was released. Both these lighters showed the importance of caps fitted tightly over the wick in order to prevent evaporation. Both designs paved the way for countless shapes and sizes of lighter that have followed.
In 1932, a company named Art Metal Works (AMW) filed suit against a department store and the Evans Case Company for selling cigarette lighters that infringed on their patent for the "one motion" lighter...AMW won at the trial level, but the decision was appealed by Evans Case and reversed in 1934 by Judge Martin T. Manton of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Not until 1939 did the whole story of the reversal come out. A young New York prosecutor had been researching unusual happenings in appeals over which Judge Manton had presided...Manton was indicted for accepting bribes. During the judge's trial, Alfred F. Reilly testified he had bought the decision from Judge Manton for $25,000. After Manton's trial was over, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed his Evans Case decision and once again AMW had sole rights to the "one motion" lighter.
"Now the flint business alone is bigger than the entire lighter industry 15 years ago," said Alfred R. Nathan, vice-president of the Ronson Art Metal Workings, Inc..."In the early years they put lighters in everything from sword canes to baby shoes cast in bronze," he said. This rococo period is dying out. The Ronson company, for example, has cut down its number of models from 1,000 to about 100. "The thing was just getting out of hand," Nathan said.
I would like to share my knowledge and exchange some valuable information with you, whether you are manufacturers, collectors, connoisseurs or even - and why not - persons interesting themselves for the first time in the subject of lighters which, for me, is full of stimulating secrets. Although I do not wish to find excuses for the few, and inevitable, inaccuracies contained in my book, I think I should be allowed to remind the reader of the fact that, as far as I have been able to ascertain, this is the very first compendium on lighters.
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