This chapter covers historical information on The Pyle-National Company and the Mars Signal Light Company as well as information on companies that formed as a result of mergers, sales, or personnel from these companies. Interjected text has been indented.
The following is a summary from the 1981 spring and summer issues of "Pyle Profiles" article entitled: "Pyle-National Company, From locomotive headlights to space-age connectors-, A look at 85 years of progress" which was compiled by Al Ganzert.
The Pyle-National Electric Headlight Company was founded in 1897 by Royal C. Vilas. The company was named after George C. Pyle who developed turbine generators to operate railroad engine headlights. The headlights used were of the arc lamp type. George had persuaded Samuel R. Tuggle, an engineer for one of the railroad companies, to make use his invention. News of the success of his invention spread quickly. George sold his patents to Royal C. Vilas who organized the company to market the new lights.
The first electric headlight equipment produced by this company was shipped to Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad on March 5, 1897 from the company's original factory located at Throop and Congress Streets in Chicago. The company's general office was located at 1426 Monadnock, Chicago.
Pyle' s improved headlight proved extremely beneficial. Locomotives could cross the plains and prairie states without striking or killing stock. Derailments also became less common. The first successful electric headlight utilizing the incandescent lamp was introduced by Pyle in 1913. The incandescent lamp used was the same type later used for household lighting. The lamp used by the railroad industry, however, had to withstand severe vibration.
A bill was presented to Congress in 1915 requiring that headlights be installed on all locomotives. Even before this became a federal law, 31 states already had such laws on their books.
In 1916 the company moved to 1334 N. Kostner Avenue, Chicago, and shortened its name to "The Pyle-National Company".
The company had an export department called the International Railroad Supply Company located at 30 Church St., New York, N.Y. It also had Canadian Representatives: "The Holden Co., Ltd." in Montreal.
During the next three decades the company grew in size, primarily as a producer of locomotive headlights and turbo-generators. The company also started manufacturing electrical fittings and switches.
In 1918 the first plug and receptacle line was developed.
The 1919 and 1920 catalogs show The Pyle National Company manufacturing the "Young Locomotive Valve Gear". This was the whole system of levers , rods and links which connected the steam pistons to the locomotive's wheels. The chief competitor of this type valve gear was the type known as "Walschaert". The catalogs go to great lengths to stress the superiority of the Young type over Walschaert as shown by tests results using both. Turbo-generators, arc headlights, incandescent headlights, as well as various switches and connectors were also manufactured and marketed.
In 1925 Pyle-National purchased the Oliver Electric & Manufacturing Company of St. Louis, Mo, which produced a line of electrical fittings, plugs and receptacles, markers, classification and cab lights for locomotives, cars, and shops. This entire operation was moved to Chicago after a year.
By 1927 many refinements were made in general duty plugs and receptacles product line. Such features as slotted keyways to prevent reverse polarity and intermating snap springs to prevent accidental circuit breaking were made.
Pyle provided a lighting system for illuminating the faces of the Wrigley Building and Wrigley tower. The Wrigley family had Pyle install an even grander lighting system in anticipation of the World's Fair returning to Chicago in 1933. The spectacular effect of this installed lighting not only added to the brilliance of the Wrigley Building but served as a welcome sign for Chicago's visitors. During the mid 1920's, Pyle-National also provided the lighting for Soldier Field Stadium.
Pyle-National offered its stock to the public in 1930. It was during this decade that Pyle- National developed Strate-Line, a delayed-action explosion-proof, dust-tight connector, used in hazardous areas.
During the Depression era, some of the company's achievements in the electrical equipment field included: the development of an explosion-proof flexible conduit; a highly effective gyrating visual warning signal, used widely on locomotives; industrial machinery and construction equipment; marker and signal lights for locomotives, cab cars and later airports; and, portable hand lamps which met the requirements of being light and mobile, for use in shops, plants, loading docks, etc.
The Pyle-National Company catalog No. 150 shows branch offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Detroit, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; St. Paul, Minnesota; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Boston, Massachusetts; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and San Francisco, California. The export department was known as the International Railway Supply Co. at 30 Church St. in New York City. Canadian agents (The Holden Company, Ltd.) were located in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver.
The company carried turbo-generators, all types of fittings for the conduit which ran wires throughout the train, interior lighting, exterior lighting, and a multitude of connectors and junction terminals.
No evidence has been found that Gyralites were produced or developed during this era. The trademark for “Gyralite” states that the date that this device was first used was 1948.
During World War II, vital railroad products were supplied to the armed forces along with plugs and receptacles, lighting equipment, and many specialty items. It was during the war that Pyle-National proved its ability to manufacture high-quality connectors on a volume basis. In the early 1940's Triploc plugs and receptacles, a general duty connector for portable equipment used in industrial plants, were developed. Other products developed in this era were ones developed for specific purposes. These included Trainline plugs. These were receptacles and jumpers designed to provide electrical interconnections between railroad passenger cars and locomotives.
Arthur C. Heehler, a former mechanical specialist at the Mars Signal Light Co., was now an inventor at Pyle-National. The first patent by Arthur C. Heehler was US Pat. No. 2,585,653, entitled "Mounting Structure For Warning And Signaling Illumination Apparatus", filed for on April 14, 1948 and granted Feb. 2, 1952. This was the patent on Pyle-National's 10350 Gyralite. Heehler, together with Albert E. Ganzert, Charles L. Howard, Thomas E. McDowell, and Frank X. Keegan were responsible for the warning lights invented and marketed by Pyle-National. From the dates of patents relating to the developed Gyralites, it appears that the major influx of Pyle-National's Gyralite patents occurred from 1948 to 1957. The trademark, again, mentions first date of use as 1948.
The first patent on a warning light to be granted to The Pyle-National Company was US Pat. 2,515,406 by Charles L. Howard entitled: "Clear and Red Warning Headlight". This patent was granted on July 18, 1950. This same patent was filed for on Nov. 25, 1949. It should be noted that Heehler and McDowell had patents filed prior to Howard's patent, but these were not granted until several years following the above mentioned patent by Howard. This may have been because of the unique color changing scheme of this light which used air pressure with colored particles to change the color of the light beam. These particles were blown by air pressure in front of the warning light. It could be readily realized that this development was not in conflict with any of the patents granted to Jeremiah D. Kennelly (Mars Signal Light Co.) for oscillating lights. It should be noted that Jeremiah D. Kennelly developed a scheme using colored fluid with air pressure to produce a clear or colored locomotive light. (US Pat. 2,571,894 - "Fluid Shutter For Light-Projecting Apparatus", filed for on March 12, 1948 and granted on October 16, 1951.)
It is interesting to note that the name, "Albert E. Ganzert", is found both in the patents assigned to The Pyle-National Company and those assigned to Jeremiah D. Kennelly (Mars Signal Light Company). US Pat. 1,785,734 - "Connector For Electric Train Lights And The Like", invented by Albert E. Ganzert, was assigned to The Pyle-National Company in 1930. US Pat. 2,494,652 - "Locomotive Headlight Assembly", invented by Albert E. Ganzert, was assigned to Jeremiah D. Kennelly (Mars Signal Light Co.) in 1950. US Pat. 2,846,663 - "Warning Light", invented by Arthur C. Heehler and Albert E. Ganzert, was assigned to The Pyle-National Company in 1958. US Pat. Des. 177,470 (design patent) - "Warning And Signalling Light Or Similar Article", on this warning light by Heehler and Ganzert was granted in 1956. The author of this Pyle-National history, herewith, is Al Ganzert.
Gyralites, illuminated gauges for steam, air, and water as well as cab light fixtures, classification lamps, marker lamps, locomotive backup lamps were all being produced during this era.
As late as 1947, over 75% of Pyle-National's sales still came either directly or indirectly from the railroad industry.
By 1950 47% of Pyle's business was directed at filling a wide variety of equipment orders for industrial consumers, with the balance going to railroads.
The management at Pyle-National recognized that there was a decreasing market for its steam locomotive products in the postwar period. As a result, it concentrated its effort on the potential for electrical equipment sales in diesel locomotive application as well as the nation's booming industrial, aerospace, and electrical markets.
During the 1950's Pyle-National acquired several companies, developed new products, and experienced phenomenal growth. Over 95% of the production was directed toward the manufacturing of equipment for industrial, commercial, and military uses.
In 1954 Pyle-National (Canada) Ltd., was established to market products in Canada.
In 1957 the ZZM connector was developed. These connectors were met both industrial and military specifications. A substantial order was received from the aerospace field as a result of the wide acceptance of the ZZM. A later application of the ZZM connector was the Pyle Star- Line.
On August 1, 1958 Pyle-National acquired the Steber Manufacturing Company of Broadview, Ill. Pyle-National grew by three plant locations as a result. The locations of these plants were: the Chicago area; Los Angeles, Calif.; and, Toronto, Canada. This acquisition cause Pyle-National to become a major producer of outdoor floodlights.
In 1961 Pyle-National (Canada) Ltd. moved into a new and modern plant in Clarkson, Ontario. The plant included a 50% increase in floor space plus new equipment.
In 1962 the increase in business at the Kostner Ave. location caused a problem of overcrowding. On September 28th, the foundry area was converted into manufacturing space.
By 1960 Pyle-National had introduced an extensive line of the Star-Line Miniature Connectors. This line played a major role in the Minuteman missile program in 1962. The increases in production volume between 1962 and 1963 were reflected by Pyle-National's heavy involvement in the missile program. At this point, Pyle-National sold through five distinct product areas: Pyle-Division, electrical connectors and conduit fittings; Multi-Vent Division, air diffusion and air conditioning products; Steber division, industrial and recreational lighting; Petelco Division, lighting for the petroleum industry; and, Fittings Division, explosion-proof lighting and electrical equipment.
The year "1963" was a commemorative date for Pyle-National. Not only did it mark the year of a groundbreaking ceremony for a new large manufacturing facility in Aiken, S.C., but it marked the year that the company divested itself of its original product lines consisting of motor generators, turbines, turbo-generators and railroad lighting products. It pursued a venture into the micro-electronics field. Pyle-National created a new subsidiary, General Micro-Electronics, Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif.
In 1959, Trans-Lite, Inc. was founded. Trans-Lite took over the lighting and air conditioning distributor division of the Safety Car Heating and Lighting Company, a company dating back to 1890.
It was in August 1963 that Trans-Lite, Inc. took over the Pyle-National
line of railroad lighting products.
Apparently, at the time Trans-Lite, Inc. purchased Pyle-National's lighting line, Arthur C. Heehler may have been involved with the Mercor Corporation. Heehler had also desired to purchase the lighting line from Pyle-National, but Pyle elected to sell to Trans-Lite (possibly because Heehler had connections to Mercor (see Mercor insert in Mars history below). Trans-Lite, Inc. currently markets equipment (lighting as well as other) for railroads, subway cars, buses, and aircraft. Micro-Electronics later sold to Philco Corp., a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company.
It should be noted that the 15360 Gyralite (beacon) was not included in the takeover of the RR lighting line by Trans-Lite, Inc. This Gyralite was left to Pyle-National and acquired in the 1970 merger with Harvey Hubbell, Inc. (discussed below).
Between the years of 1963 and 1967, Pyle's lighting business increased by 80%. An important group of lighting fixtures utilizing mercury vapor sources was introduced in the first half of 1967. These lights were designed for use in industrial plants. Pyle also introduced a new high-powered floodlight known as the "Super Sportslighter". This light was received in acceptance for use at Georgia's Tech's football stadium in Atlanta, Ga. and at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Ca. This was the first lighting installation in a sports stadium suitable for color television broadcasting at night. Pyle-National's line of outdoor lighting equipment included a complete selection of high performance floodlamps and general illumination fluorescent fixtures, in addition to a number of small floodlights and spotlights.
By 1969 Pyle-National's products had gained increased acceptance from indoor and outdoor sports arenas; air, rail, and truck terminals, and parking lots.
A major connector contract, which was negotiated with Rolls Royce, Derby, in 1968. This led to the establishment of Pyle-National (U.K.) Limited. This division became an integral satellite sales and marketing operation for Pyle products in Europe.
In 1970, Pyle-National merged with Harvey Hubbell, Inc. The Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice received inquiries on this merger. As a result, in 1972, Hubbell divested itself of Pyle-National’s Connector Division. This division became known as The Pyle-National Company.
Harvey Hubbell, Inc. became known as “Hubbell, Inc.”.
The 15360 Gyralite was marketed by Hubbell Lighting, Inc. (subsidiary of Hubbell, Inc.). This Gyralite was actively produced as a part of their lighting line through 1997. They still will manufacture this light on a special order.
Pyle-National spent much of the mid 70's laying the foundation for later development of the C-Line, T-700, and connectors for the automobile and oil industries.
In 1980, a new molded rubber connector for Amtrak was in the tooling stage. The C-Line presented a tremendous growth potential in the marine cargo industry. The company has infiltrated the aircraft industry with its specialized connectors. The company continues research to meet the needs of industry, as well as the growing aerospace and nuclear fields.
Pyle-National Company has since undergone several mergers. The company is now known as the Amphenol Sine Systems * Pyle Connectors Corporation.
This corporation lists two addresses:
One is: 650 West Grand Ave.; Suite 304; Elmhurst, IL 60126. This address is alternately referred to as Pyle-National, an Amphenol Co.
The second address is: 25325 Joy Blvd.; Mt. Clemens, MI 48046-2336.
The former product lines of lighting and air conditioning have apparently been divested. Now the corporation specializes in producing all sorts of connectors (including fiber optic connectors) for communications, data transmission, cable television, cellular telephone, and data transmission as well as coaxial and flat ribbon cable. They are also involved in information processing systems, aerospace and military electronics, automotive, rail, and other transportation and industrial applications.
The following article is a summary of the November 1990 issue of "Mainline Modeler" entitled: "MARS LIGHTS Their Development by Grant V.W. Roth. [courtesy of the Kalmbach Memorial Library].
Jerry (Jeremiah) Kennelly was approximately 17-18 years old when he joined the Chicago Fire Department and became an Aerial Ladder truck driver. All drivers of these trucks had the problem of breaking through traffic on route to a fire, especially at night. Jerry Kennelly thought of vertical movement and sweeps as he utilized the "Lorraine" variable beam spotlights on the windshield braces. He wiggled these spotlights manually and by doing so provided a flashing beam in the eyes of oncoming traffic. The effect of this beam was to attract their attention to the other lights (red and green on the emergency vehicle).
Later, Jerry Kennelly replaced the white Lorraine spotlight lens with a "Red Solleen" lens, greatly improving the effect of this hand operated unit. This was the origin of the Mars and other signals.
In the early 1930's Jerry Kennelly tried to mechanize the flashing action by using the "Loraine Spotlight Head" on a windshield wiper motor. This produced a good wig-wag effect but if the fire truck with this light mechanism was behind another car then the light effect would be lost.
Kennelly improved the action of the light. He developed a "2 in 1" light action. This action resulted in a "figure 8" light beam pattern. In this way, if a "figure 8" light equipped vehicle were to be behind a car or truck, the flashing light would show up in the rear view mirror of the car or truck, as well as be seen by oncoming traffic.
It was realized that the profits on this light as far as the fire department would not carry the successful operation of the company. Experimental work in the form of a railroad crossing light was created in 1936. The signal proved to be impressive but the cost of manufacturing this unit was excessive. On discussion with Charles Longham, Chief Safety Officer of the C&NW Railroad, it was decided to try out a powerful "Figure 8" light on the smoke box of an E2A 4-6-2 remanufactured Baldwin locomotive (#2908). A 22" diameter housing and a 12" rhodium reflector were used on this unit, both designed and created by Grant V.W. Roth.
A 32 volt standard headlight bulb was used but this was later changed to one of 12 volts due to the fact that the 12 volt bulb filament was more rigid and not as prone to breakage. The movement of the bulb together with the extreme high speed locomotive vibration usually ruined the filament of the 32 volt bulb quickly.
It appears from the literature that the design of the 32 volt bulb had improved over the years. In many catalogs it is the standard, with the 12 volt system and corresponding bulb being offered as an option.
In April of 1936 the trial run of this oscillating headlight took place at the Proviso Yards using a J class freight engine. A temporary installation was made on the locomotive's smoke box. The Orchard Track was used for this night test.
After several runs the tests had to be stopped because of traffic congestion on the overpasses of the railway. People were apparently wondering what the flashing BLUE beam was. Blue glass was used because the current regulations prohibited the use of red.
George McCormick of Southern Pacific was visiting Chicago relating to construction at EMD. He requested to see #2908 with its oscillating light as the locomotive was coming into Chicago. The locomotive hit a large bird on its northbound trip (stated speed 100 mph). The blue lens was demolished. A clear glass lens was purchased as a replacement . The demonstration to George McCormick proved to be a success. A white (clear) lens was standard from that point on.
Kennelly, who now was a motorcycle police officer in Oak Park, had made a business acquaintance with Frank Mars.
Kennelly lost his hearing in the left ear following a shooting incident in which he was pursuing bandits on his motorcycle. He was forced to retire from direct activity with the Oak Park Police Department. He received a disability pension for the rest of his life for injuries sustained in the shooting.
Frank Mars had a great interest in Kennelly's moving light beams and provided help to Kennelly by making various moving beam fire lights using machinery at the Mars Candy Company with the help of his Chief Mechanical Engineer.
Kennelly applied for various mechanical patents on his light in his name assigned to Mars Light Company. These mechanical patents were rejected. He then decided to apply for a design patent on the "figure 8". The "figure 8" patent was eventually accepted by the US Patent Office and was the basis for eliminating competitors.
Frank Mars died in 1933. Jerry Kennelly questioned his widow, Ethel V. Mars about the continuation of the "prototype light" into a marketable unit. She advised him to continue the program and she provided the financing and general help to keep the business going.
The following are Kennelly design patents with dates granted:
Des. 99,286 - DESIGN FOR A HEADLIGHT - April 14, 1936 - Jeremiah D. Kennelly
Des. 100,781 - DESIGN FOR A SIGNAL LAMP - Aug. 11, 1936 - Jeremiah D. Kennelly
Des. 103,052 - DESIGN FOR A SIGNAL LIGHT - Feb. 2, 1937 - Jeremiah D. Kennelly - 1/2 assigned to Ethel V. Mars
Des. 103,681 - DESIGN FOR A TRAFFIC SIGNAL - March 23, 1937 - Jeremiah D. Kennelly - 1/2 assigned to Ethel V. Mars
Des. 104,628 - DESIGN FOR A COMBINED LAMP AND HORN - May 25, 1937 - Jeremiah D. Kennelly - 1/2 assigned to Ethel V. Mars
Des. 104,629 - DESIGN FOR A COMBINED LAMP AND HORN - May 25, 1937 - Jeremiah D. Kennelly - 1/2 assigned to Ethel V. Mars
Des. 105,796 - DESIGN FOR ATRAFFIC SIGNAL - Aug. 24, 1937 - Jeremiah D. Kennelly - 1/2 assigned to Ethel V. Mars
Des. 109,407 - DESIGN FOR A LOCOMOTIVE HEADLIGHT - April 26, 1938 - Jeremiah D. Kennelly
This inrush of design patents in the 1930s subsided. Mechanical patents ended up being the prevalent patent issued to Kennelly.
No patents prior to 1960 show assignment to the Mars Signal Light Company. US Pat. Des. 189,429 (design patent), invented by Jeremiah D. Kennelly and H. E. Williams - "Combined Flood And Search Light Or Similar Article", was assigned to the Mars Signal-Light Company in 1960. Note the hyphen "-" in "Signal-Light". Most of Kennelly's patents are by "Jeremiah D. Kennelly" - with no assignment. US Pat. 2,494,652, invented by Albert E. Ganzert, was assigned to Jeremiah D. Kennelly in 1950. This is the first record of assignment of a mechanical patent (design patents assigned 1/2 to Ethel V. Mars).
Kennelly's first patents for "figure 8" lights included a design patent (US Pat. Des. 99,286 - granted Apr. 14, 1936) and 2 mechanical patents (US Pat. 1,991,101 - granted Feb. 12, 1935 and US Pat. 2,132,302 - granted Oct. 4, 1938). (The FL "figure 8" light utilized the 1st modification of US Pat. 2,132,302.) The tags on all models of these lights included patent notation: "1991101- 99286".
Subsequently, (1936) after skeptical cynicism on some and approval on other railroads, the Mars Light was proving itself to be a useful asset. Some problems had to be overcome. On one run the light was found in shambles due to the terrific vibration on the locomotive. All joints were lock-washered and reinforced as a result.
During WWII under US Government direction, there was a stoppage in the manufacture of passenger diesel locomotives. The facilities of EMD, American, Lima, etc. were required for war purposes. For the duration of the war this stopped the production of locomotive accessories. The Mars Light Company manufactured electric sirens during the war which were used on American Army and Canadian Army tanks.
Art Heehler, a former mechanical specialist with Mars, left Pyle-National (note: there were patents on gyrating warning lights issued to Heehler and assigned to Pyle-National) at a later date and started a locomotive signal light manufacturers' parts producer. The name of the this producer was(or is) MERCORE. Mercore is still a supplier of various items to locomotive manufacturers and railroads (1990).
Mercore does not end in “e”. Also information in the previous paragraph is in conflict with the corporation documents for the Mercor Corp. (see “Mercor” entry).
Grant V.W. Roth was president of the Ace Foundry Company which produced all aluminum and brass castings used by Mars in the aforementioned period. Ace Foundry Company carried Mars financially when they ran low on cash and had to pay other suppliers.
This information on Mercor stated above might be in error. The company was known as the Mercor Corporation. Mercor - doesn't end in "e". Also, Heehler did not start up Mercor (see below).
Power Parts Company was the distributor of Mercor's products. Such products as the Oscitrol Light together with a Locomotive Horn were manufactured by Mercor, being invented by Arthur C. Heehler. Arthur C. Heehler died before his last patent (US Pat. 3,908,179 which was marketed as the Oscitrol Light) was granted. This patent was granted in 1975. The only patent assigned to the Mercor Corporation from this point to date was US Pat. 4,438,731 by Joseph D. Maggio, entitled "Flow Control System", filed on Jan. 26, 1982 and granted on March 27, 1984. A useful application of this patent was a means for metering diluent fluid to an emulsification apparatus in desired proportion as a result of the diesel engine fuel flow set by a locomotive throttle. Joe left Mercor in Oct. of 1987. He says he doesn't have any information on Mercor as of that date. Power Parts became a subsidiary of Motive Power Industries. In 1999 Motive Power Industries merged with WABCO (Westinghouse Air Brake Company). Motive Power industries is now part of the WABTEC Corportation.
On contacting the Illinois State Capitol for records of corporations, it was found that the Mercor Corporation was dissolved on March 1, 1994.
The following summary was obtained from the Illinois State incorporation papers of Mercor:
Mercor was formed on Oct. 21, 1952, being founded by:
Grant V.W. Roth
Edmund P. Kelly
Listed purpose(s) for incorporation:
To buy sell install and deal in industrial and transportation equipment, electrical and general appliances including air, rail, motor transport and marine equipment. To render engineering services and advice in connection with the installation, operation and servicing of equipment described above.
Amendments to the articles of incorporation certificate issued on Dec. 12, 1968
Arthur C. Heehler is shown to be president. (Arthur C. Heehler died around 1975.)
Articles of Merger (corporations
merged into Mercor) on certificate issued on Aug 18, 1980:
Aztec Electronic Corporation
All bearing signature of Brian R. Heehler as their president (attested to by Larry C. Heehler).
The last report of officers and
directors for the Mercor Corp.:
Larry Heehler - Pres. &
Secretary & Director
Gary Heehler - Treasurer & Director
Brian Heehler - Director
Gary Heehler signed the anual report as vice president
last address of Mercor:
3501 Martens St.
Franklin Park, IL 60131
Mercor was dissolved on March 1, 1994 with statement of reason: "failure to file an annual report and pay an annual franchise tax" Myron Siegel was the registered agent for Mercor and resigned - filed: March 10, 1994
Search for Mars Signal Light Co:
A copy of a cover of a 1940? catalog (WR-5000-A catalog – see misc.) shows the address of the Mars Signal Light Company as 5737 W. Division St.; Chicago, IL.
I contacted Mars, Inc. of McLean, VA (the candy company), and was informed by their personnel and organizational manager, S. A. Heffelfinger, that they have no record of what became of the 'MarsLite Corporation'. She did say that in April of 1933, Mr. Mars and Mr. Kennelly formed a company named the 'MarsLite Corporation', with Mr. Mars providing $1000 of it's working capital. She found a file on it with a large drawing which must have been used to apply for the patent. She also provided me with information about Jerry Kennelly:
Apparently, Jerry Kennelly suggested using a flashing light for police and fire vehicles to enhance their safety. It appeared that no one was interested in the idea until two fire trucks collided in Chicago with grim results. The mayor suddenly became interested in the concept and the 'MarsLite Corporation' was born. It set the criterion for flashing lights for emergency vehicles until World War II.
I contacted the Federal Signal Corporation of University Park, IL, and was told that they did not take over the Mars Signal Light Company and were not a subsidiary of it.
John Blair suggested contacting SPAAMFAA (Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America). He remembered seeing "Bubble Gum Machines" on tow trucks and various emergency vehicles in the 1980's in Syracuse, N.Y. (in which SPAAMFAA has roots) which bore the slogan "The Light From Mars" and the name "The Mars Signal Light Company".
Trade-Mark 343,236 for "THE LIGHT FROM MARS" was registered to Jeremiah D. Kennelly on Feb. 16, 1937. A metal plate bearing this trade-mark was attached to the products sold by the Mars Signal Light Co.
Investigation of SPAAMFAA led me to John Dorgan of the Rusty Bucket Volunteer Fire Company, Inc.; Arizona Territorial Chapter of SPAAMFAA. John provided me with this information:
The MARS Signal Light Company manufactured many different lights and sirens starting with the model FL which dates back to Kennelly's original patent (US Pat. 1,991,101 cited above). The company simultaneously made both emergency vehicle warning lights and railroad lights. They manufactured both train lights and several types of crossing lights. In the late 60's or early 70's, the operations moved to Naples, Florida and they operated from this location until the company was purchased by Trippe Light Co. The resulting corporation became known as TRI LITE MARS. It is located in Chicago, once again, and is located at 1335 W. Randolph St.; Chicago, IL 60607. Tel. 1-800-322-5250. John goes on to say that TRI LITE MARS doesn't have any information as to the early days prior to TRI LITE.
Rich Sitler contacted me with information on the address for the company. He listed the phone and fax numbers as well as revealing that the company makes an "888" light used for fire trucks and locomotives.
I called the company using the 1-800 number. The company identified itself as "TRI LITE INC.". The address is what John and Rich have stated. (phone: (312) 226-7778/fax: (312) 226-5335)
Information from TRI LITE INC. catalog:
TRI LITE INC. is made up of the TRI LITE division and the MARS Signal Light division. They also identify themselves as TRI LITE MARS (evidenced by their logo and catalog cover). Their present product line includes warning lights, back up alarms and sirens. Both belt and gear drive rotating light units are available. They manufacture the MARS "888" Traffic Breaker Light which generates a "figure 8" moving pattern which they claim to be the leading fire truck warning light for years. This light is sold in a pedestal mounted unit (TB8-P) or as a flush mounted unit (TB8-F). The catalog specifications state that these units are rated 60,000 (optional 100,000) candlepower. This unit is available with either a clear or red lens. The "888" light is also incorporated into roof bar units.
From the product line, emergency vehicle equipment is what this company now specializes in. I verified this with their customer service representative.
Regarding the sale of rotating flashers or strobes to the railroad industry, the representative stated that this may be taking place through their distributors, but TRI LITE INC. has no records of distributor sales.