A couple of years ago, while watching reviews for extremely expensive fountain pens on YouTube, I stumbled across reviews for very expensive, high-end flashlights. I was taken aback at military grade flashlights priced as high as $900. There is a fetish for ultra-high candlepower that reminds me of the obsession for high horsepower among motor vehicle enthusiasts.
This knowledge led me to uncover a previously unknown category of very pricey accessories called “EDC” for everyday carry. The EDC culture is a subset of the military-like lifestyle, centered around firearms and expensive off-road pickups and other vehicles. I investigated this cultural phenomenon and backed away from it, because I cannot relate to it. I need a $900 flashlight as little as I need a $900 fountain pen. I bought a $20 “Coast” flashlight and found it to be good enough.
I’ve had a thing about flashlights since young boyhood. One Christmas I received an electric projects set as a gift from mom and dad. One of the projects called for the construction of a flashlight from a cardboard toilet paper tube, some insulated wire, a “grain of wheat” bulb, and a “C” battery. The thing actually worked, but didn’t emit very much light.
There have been a great number of flashlights in my life, practically all of them have been inexpensive devices that have been kept for use in the car, the toolbox, and bedside. They’ve helped me find small items that have dropped into dark corners, make basic repairs to car engines and household repairs. They’ve accompanied me to the basement during tornado warnings. Either by personal purchase or as gifts, I own more than enough flashlights.
The flashlight (or torch, if you live in the UK) has come a long way since David Misell’s first rudimentary flashlight that was invented in 1898. The year before, Misell noticed the commercial success of the “Acme Bicycle Light”. He redesigned the light and patented his three battery unit in 1898.
In the autumn of 1897, Misell met Conrad Hubert, the man who later founded the Ever Ready Company. Hubert eventually purchased the patent and rights to the bicycle light and the small shop where the lights were made. Hubert’s assistant, Gustave Hitzelberger was also perfecting his own “tubular light”. Hubert and Hitzelberger decided to name their invention the “flashlight”.
The very first flashlights were hand crafted from paper tubes with a “bayonet” fastened endcap, a course brass reflector, and a carbon filament bulb. Misell and Hubert gave several of them to New York City policemen, who, in turn, gave them favorable reviews.
The basic flashlight with the sliding on-off switch was patented in 1905. Through the following decades, the flashlight evolved with the invention of nickle-plated tubes and tungsten filament bulbs. Except for cosmetic changes, the flashlight remained virtually unchanged until recently.
After the introduction of high-power light emitting diodes by “Lumileds Corporation” of San Jose, California, in 1999, flashlight manufacturers began installing LEDs into their products. Now, most new flashlights use some form of LED to emit light. The new technology allows for greater candlepower and longer battery life.
I continue to use both incandescent and LED flashlights just because I have several of each technology. I discovered that the more I spend on a flashlight, the less dependable and more finicky it is. The best ones are a six-volt lantern style and a cheap yellow “Energizer”. I have a light for the car that is powered by the cigarette lighter via a retractable cord, so I never have to worry about leaking batteries for that application.
Happy Flashlight Day.