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Here’s ten companies who have paved the way and the ones who are building the future of flashlights and portable lighting. Best known for pioneering the original battery technology that led to the first flashlight (the flash comes from their unreliable flickering nature due to the tech back then). Best known for helping advance battery technology in the early 1900s that made flashlights more practical. Little known fact: Rayovac was originally called the French Battery company when it was founded in 1906.
Little known fact: Streamlight created the first million candela hand light for NASA in the early 1970s. Best known for their climbing and caving gear, work-at-height equipment, safety helmets and headlamps. Little known fact: Pelican originally was founded as a mail-order business with a focus on products for the dive market. Little known fact: Maglite was originally founded as Mag Instrument in 1955 by Anthony Maglica. Little known fact: FoxFury was created to develop a headlamp to enable hands-free surfing at night. Flashlights have gone from impractical, unreliable electric novelties to reliable, life-changing and even life-saving tools. First mover advantages typically make it harder for me-too companies to gain significant market share.

The two oldest flashlight companies around (Eveready and Rayovac…more on them later) were instrumental in developing battery technology as well.
Below is a chronological list (from oldest to newest) of 10 of the top portable lighting companies around.
Petzl created their first headlamp in 1973, which was developed primarily for mountaineering. In 2009, they purchased one of their long-time competitors (Hardigg Industries) that also made cases.
Police and military have used a tremendous number of Surefire’s flashlights over the past 20 years. Maglite has released several collectible flashlights over the years that have become quite popular with flashlight collectors.
That project was put on hold and we opted to get into building hands-free lights for firefighters and other first responders along with industry. Companies like Coca-Cola, Xerox and Kleenex are so entrenched that some of us still call products by the company name rather than item name.
You’ll learn when they were founded, where they are based, what their known for and a little fun fact or two about each. In the 1910s they offered Ray-O-Lite flashlights.They made copper bullet style flashlights as far back as the 1930s. FoxFury has designed LED-only products since its inception and has close working relationships with top LED suppliers including CREE, OSRAM and Nichia.

We hope this blog post has shed some light (pardon the pun) on the history of portable light. Fire is awesome but it has its drawbacks: tricky to transport and potentially destructive (especially in the days before fire departments). The LED (light emitting diode) was invented in 1962 by another General Electric employee named Nick Holonyak Jr.. Battery and bulb technology of that era was extremely inefficient and costly by today’s standards. Koehler teamed up with Grant Wheat to create the Wheat Cap Lights, which is the form factor of mining lights that we still recognize today. LEDs at the time were extremely costly to make (cost around $200 each), which was why they weren’t produced until 1968.
Portable lights were therefore impractical for the average person until the tungsten filament light bulb was invented. Many of the top portable light and flashlight manufacturers that we know of today were formed after 1970. Dry cell battery technology became available in the late 1890s and the first flashlight was then created in 1896.

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