Updated 09-XII-2018

Theron Clark Crawford

This article was written by fellow lamp engineer and collector Edward J. Covington, and originally appeared on his own website of biographical sketches of persons involved in the lamp industry. Following his passing in February 2017, and with kind permission of his family, Ed's words have been preserved here in the hope of maintaining access to his writings for the benefit of subsequent generations.

T.C. Crawford in 18772

A brief write-up of a man called Theron Clark Crawford (1849 - 1925) is considered here, not because he was an inventor, but rather because he was an entrepreneur who helped to finance work that resulted in the manufacture of the Crawford-Voelker lamp. This lamp was made in England for a few years at the beginning of the twentieth century. The lamp had a filament of titanium carbide and is pictured below.

A Crawford-Voelker Titaniam Carbide Lamp, No. 778 in the Collection of William J. Hammer, Housed at The Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.A.

Theron Crawford had a colorful career. At one time he spent 15 years at the nation's capitol as a political journalist. He ventured into mining in California, investigated reports of rich unexploited gold fields in Spain and even financed Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show when it played in England. Crawford was the author of several books. As a newspaper correspondent he worked for Joseph Pulitzer.

Although the story behind a relationship with Ludwig Karl Böhm, the glass blower who worked for Thomas Alva Edison, is not known, they share inventorship of U.S. patent No. 516,079, which was issued on 6 March 1894. This collaborative effort apparently occurred before Crawford became associated with William Lawrence Voelker.

Some personal characteristics of Crawford can be gleaned from the autobiography that was written by his daughter, Inez Grace Crawford Lovat Fraser (1889 - 1977). Inez referred to her father as "Papa" in her writing. Some of what she had to say follows:
"Papa was handsome and jovial with a gorgeous sense of fun and an outrageous fantasy. He had immense and completely extrovert charm, loved all people and was always sure that everyone he knew was good, loyal and trustworthy. So he trusted them, successfully on the whole, but sometimes with dire results....Papa was always sure that he was about to make a fortune and frequently did....The fact of the matter was that Papa was a born gambler and, though a shrewd business man, the lure of an attractive but perilous gamble was something he found hard to resist. And, like all gamblers, he had his ups and downs."
The time frame of collaboration between Crawford and William Lawrence Voelker can be estimated by examining the application dates on the patents that are listed in the Voelker write-up. This is determined to be about 1897 to 1900.

Although Crawford was born in the United States he lived for different periods of time in European countires. England seemed to be home base for him and his family.

References & Bibliography
  1. "The Crawford-Voelker Incandescent Electric Lamp", Scientific American, Vol.87, No.20, 15 Nov 1902, p.331.
  2. "In the Days of My Youth", Grace Lovat Fraser, Cassell, London, 1970.
  3. http://www.brynmawr.edu/library/speccoll/guides/fraser.shtml
  4. Electrical World and Engineer, Vol.39, 4 Jan 1901, pp.42-43