Updated 04-I-2015

Trumbull Lamp Plant

The history of the Trumbull Lamp Plant of General Electric proves especially difficult to research in view of the large number of competing lamp manufacturers that existed in its home town of Warren, Ohio - even along the same road. This page details all of the factories bearing a similar name and it is presumed that they existed at the same site, but this has not been verified as no address has been found for the earlier operations. The author would be very grateful for additional details concerning this factory, and clarification as to its relationship, if any, with some of the earlier lamp plants in Warren from which this particular operation may have emerged.

General View of the Trumbull Lamp Plant of General Electric U.S.A., taken in 2011 long after closure.

Address 1313 West Market Street, Warren, Ohio 44485, USA.
Location 41.2342°N, -80.8362°E.
Opened Pre-1910?
Closed 1989.
Floorspace 20,000 sq.ft. (1,858 m²).
Products Sealed Beam reflector lamps. Possibly also miniature types in earlier years.

References to the Existence of a Trumbull Lamp Plant
The earliest known existence of lamp factories at Warren known by the name 'Trumbull' are citied in the 1910 directories of that city. Two plants are referenced, by the names of Trumbull Carbon Lamp Works and Trumbull Mazda Lamp Works. The fact that the latter utilises the Mazda brand would suggest that right from its inception, it was a factory operated either directly by General Electric, or by its subsidiary, the National Electric Lamp Works, who were owners of the Mazda trademark.

By 1914 there is no further reference of the Carbon works, and the Mazda works appears to have changed its name to Trumbull Mazda Lamp Division. This leads one to believe that it was originally a National factory, because following the 1911 anti-trust lawsuit against GE, it was required to take over the National companies and re-name them as "Divisions" of GE. Since National was founded out of a group of small independent manufacturers who joined forces so as to better compete against the large lampmakers, it is therefore likely that the Trumbull plant has its origins in one of the small National members. Since it is based in Warren, which was home to a great many lampmakers, it is difficult to identify its predecessor. One possibility is the Warren Electrical & Specialty Company, which was established by Mr. Elmer Wood Gillmer in 1893 in a small barn at Warren, to manufacture carbon filament lamps. In 1903 that factory was relocated to the site directly adjacent to the Trumbull Lamp Plant and Gillmer founded a second, apparently competing manufacturer there, known as The Peerless Electric Company. He did not stop at two companies, founding many other electrical business, and still further lamp manufacturers, also in Warren, by the names of The Colonial Electric Company, The Economy Electric Company and The Niles Electric Company. Warren Electrical, Economy and Niles were eventually merged into Peerless and this continued running parallel alongside Colonial as two competing lampmakers for many years, even after both had been absorbed into National. Additionally there were many other lamp factories in Warren, not connected with Mr. Gillmer's activities, several of these also being absorbed into National, and any one of them could have been a predecessor of the so-called Trumbull plant.

Trumbull Mazda Lamp Division continued to be listed in city directories until 1921, but is missing from the 1923 issue. It is not known if the site closed around that time, or was simply more fully absorbed into General Electric as an anonymous factory within that corporation, thereby no longer being listed as a separate trading company. The Packard, Peerless-Brilliant, Sterling and Ohio Divisions of GE are however listed in later years, so it is suspected that Trumbull Mazda Lamp Division either closed, or its factory was merged into one of these four divisions.

The next reference to a "Trumbull Lamp Works" can be found in a GE Standardizing Notice concerning factory identification symbols marked onto its lamps, dated 1941. "Trumbull Lamp Plant #346" continues to be referenced in an updated version of the same specification dated 1964, and again as "Trumbull Plant #3346" in a similar document issued during the 1980s. It is difficult to establish whether this site is the same as that which had already been established by the 1910s, perhaps resurrected after a period of inactivity, or indeed if it was a completely new facility constructed sometime between about 1921 and 1941.

Product Range
The only lamp types known for certain to have been produced at the Trumbull Lamp Plant pictured above are sealed beam reflector types. These are referenced in a particularly detailed manual written in 1978 concerning the constructional aspects of sealed beam automotive headlamps which may be of use in forensic studies. At the time it was written, both PAR46 and PAR56 sealed beam automotive lamps are referenced, the pressed glass lenses and reflectors for these being produced at the nearby Mahoning Glass Plant of General Electric, in Niles (Ohio).

Later references state that the factory produced other special lamps for aircraft, mining, construction, farm, entertainment and swimming pool applications - it is not specified, but these were possibly also of the sealed beam reflector variety.

In the earlier years the various operations that preceded the sealed beam factory evidently produced both carbon and tungsten filament lamps, and it is believed that Trumbull may also have produced miniature incandescent lamps such as those employed in Christmas Tree illumination. Owing to the discontinuity of available information, it cannot be confirmed that these were produced at the same site as that pictured above.

Trumbull was not the only sealed beam lamp assembly plant of General Electric, and neither was Mahoning Glassworks the sole provider of the glass for those products in the later years. During the 1940s GE recognised that sealed beam was an important growth area, due in particular to the increasing demand for automotive applications. To avoid falling behind competition, additional capacity was added in 1946 in the form of the Lexington Glass Plant at Kentucky, and in 1947 the nearby Lexington Lamp Plant, both of which were dedicated solely to this lamp type. Just a few years later in 1957 Lexington Glass stopped the production of pressed ware and was converted to a ribbon bulb plant, and replaced by the new Somerset Glass Plant, also in Kentucky.

Trumbull Lamp Plant apparently ran in parallel alongside the newer Lexington sealed beam operations for many years, and survived the major restructuring of GE's American lampmaking operations in the early 1980s. However a local newspaper cites its closure soon afterwards in 1989. Apparently some 300 people were made redundant, but a few dozen workers were transferred to other local plants. Since Trumbull was known to be a sealed beam plant at the time, and the nearby Ohio Lamp Plant elsewhere in Warren is also known to have produced the PAR38 size of sealed beam lamp (at least in its later years), it is possible that PAR38 may have been relocated from Trumbull to Ohio at that time. It is likely that following the closure of Trumbull, the remaining sealed beam production would have been concentrated in the newer Lexington Lamp Plant.

Factory Service Room, c.1910 Factory Lunch Room, 1915 View of Both Buildings, 2011 (7) View of Main Building, 2011 (7)
View from Rear, 2011 (7) View from Rear, 2011 (7) View of Front, 2013 (6) Aerial View, 2013 (7)

Examples of Trumbull Lamps
PAR38 Projector Spot PAR36 Auto Spot #4515

1 Lamp Manufacturers in Warren (Ohio), Early Incandescent Lamps website, E.J. Covington.
2 Cleveland-Based Lamp Manufacturers, The Incandescent Electric Lamp 1880-1925, E.J. Covington, NELA Press, 1998 pp.15.
3 Lights Out for GE Plants in the Mahoning Valley, Don Shilling, 2010
4 History of the Peerless Electric Company
5 Auto Headlight Glass : Visible Features of Forensic Utility, US National Bureau of Standards Report, February 1978.
6 GE Set to Tear Down Plants, Tribune Chronicle of Warren OH, 21st June 2013
7 Google Maps, 2014