Updated 06-I-2018

Frederick Schaefer

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.

It is of interest to the writer to learn as much as is possible about the individuals who played notable roles in the early days of the incandescent lamp. One person who appears to be elusive to the researcher is Frederick Schaefer. An attempt to find some biographical data on Schaefer resulted in the following being determined from the Cambridge City Directories.

In the 1887 Directory5 Frederick E. Schaefer is listed as living at 351 Main. In addition, Leonard Schaefer is listed as the superintendent of the Schaefer Electric Manufacturing Company. In the 1888 Cambridge City Directory6 the name of Frederick E. is no longer there but Leonard is still listed as the superintendent of the Schaefer Company. A John Schaefer, who is identified as a machinist, is also listed (in 1888), apparently working at the Schaefer Company. Tentatively then, one might surmise that Frederick E., Leonard and John were related.

A short article appeared in the Fort Wayne Gazette in which it announced that Schaefer was the Superintendent at the Fort Wayne Jenney Electric Light Company1. It read:

"Incandescent Lighting

"The growth of the business of the manufacture and sale of incandescent electric lamps must be exceedingly satisfactory to the Fort Wayne Jenney Electric Light company.

"Under the superintendence of Frederick Schaefer, the Boston expect, several thousand incandescent lights have been sold and are now in successful operation. At Peoria, Ills., there are five insulated plants with 800 lights and a central station with 1,200 lights; at Pittsburg there are 1,000 lights; at Alliance, 600; at Kansas City, 800; at Chicago, 500 and at New Orleans, where the Louisiana Electric Light and Power company operate 1,600 of the Jenney Arc lamps, 1,500 incandescent lamps have lately been put in. This department of the Jenney factory now gives employment to five men and nine girls and this force must be shortly increased."

It would appear that Schaefer did not remain long in Fort Wayne. About this same time Frank Thone was living in Fort Wayne and when Thone moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa to become associated with the Hawkeye Electric Manufacturing Company, Schaefer apparently followed. Schaefer assisted Thone and had charge of the incandescent lamp department4.

An advertisement of the Schaefer Electric Manufacturing Company appeared in the Boston City Directory for 18887 and is shown below, along with images of some Schaefer lamps and an illustration from one of his patents

The writer appreciates the information supplied by Mark Freed of the Cambridge Public Library, Katie Barrett of the Boston Public Library, and Alice Barva of the Fort Wayne Public Library.

  1. US 320,297 - Jun 16 1885 - Manufacture of Filaments for Incandescent Lamps
  2. US 322,857 - Jul 21 1885 - Electric Switch
  3. US 339,217 - Apr 06 1886 - Electric Lamp Holder
  4. US 339,218 - Apr 06 1886 - Electric Lamp Switch
  5. US 352,006 - Nov 02 1886 - Incandescent Electric Lamp
  6. US 352,007 - Nov 02 1886 - Incandescent Electric Lamp

  1. Fort Wayne Gazette, March 5 1887, p.4.
  2. U.S. Patent 348,799, Arc Light, Frank Thone, granted Sep 7 1886, filed Mar 24 1886.
  3. "The Fort Wayne Jenney Incandescent System", The Electrical World, Vol.X, Jul 16 1887, p.31.
  4. "Hawkeye Electric Company", Western Electrician, Vol.2 No.13, Mar 31 1888, p.159.
  5. "1887 Cambridge Directory", p.344.
  6. "1888 Cambridge Directory", p.382.
  7. "1888 Boston Directory", p.1838.
  8. "General Electric at Fort Wayne, Indiana - A 110 Year History", Clovis E. Linkous, Gateway Press, Baltimore, 1994, p.37.