Updated 04-I-2019

Irving H. Van Horn

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.

Irving Hamilton Van Horn3 was born on 16 December 1884 in Dickey County, North Dakota. He graduated in 1909 from the University of Wisconsin, along with future fellow National Lamp Works employees W. P. Zabel, and Dr. William E. Forsythe. He then studied for one year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology2. Van Horn joined the Engineering Department of the National Electric Lamp Association in June of 19101.

United States patents granted to Van Horn are listed below. In addition, Van Horn was granted at least thirteen patents in Canada. One patent, No. 2,021,758, is for a fuse wire in the interior of a lamp. Quoting from the patent:

"In some cases the breaking of the filament in an incandescent lamp causes an arc to form therein which may result in the bursting of the bulb and the blowing of the main line fuse. In many cases the arc travels along the leads of the lamp into the base and socket structures, welding them together before the main fuse breaks, thus causing considerable damage. It is desirable, therefore, to provide some means of cutting off the arc. A fuse in the lamp provides this protection, although, if it is exposed to the atmosphere by disposing it in the base as has been done heretofore, difficulties arise due to deterioration of said fuse." The fuse proposed by Van Horn was especially needed in the higher wattage lamps (300 to 1500 watts). The fuse, a wire thinner than the lead-in wire, was also enclosed by a non-conductor to prevent an arc from striking again.
The side view of a biplane coiled filament mount from U.S. Patent 2,449,679 is shown above.

Irving and Ethel Van Horn had three daughters, Reva, Mildred and Margaret, as well as a son, Irving Jr2. Van Horn retired in 1949 and moved to Tucson, Arizona. He passed away, at age 96, on 22 May 1981 in Destin, Florida, the home city of two of his daughters.

  1. US 1,687,530 - 16 Oct 1928 - Automatic Cut-Out for Electric Incandescent Lamps (with Wilbur A. Pipkin)
  2. US 1,694,997 - 11 Dec 1928 - Base for Incandescent Lamps or Similar Articles
  3. US 1,717,283 - 11 Jun 1929 - Incandescent Electric Lamp (with Wilbur A. Pipkin)
  4. US 1,797,031 - 17 Mar 1931 - Protective Device for Electrical Devices (with Wilbur A. Pipkin)
  5. US 2,021,758 - 19 Nov 1935 - Electric Lamp
  6. US 2,232,816 - 25 Feb 1941 - Electric Lamp
  7. US 2,288,499 - 30 Jun 1942 - Electric Lamp
  8. US 2,300,997 - 03 Nov 1942 - Electric Incandescent Lamp
  9. US 2,326,419 - 10 Aug 1943 - Electric Lamp
  10. US 2,336,903 - 14 Dec 1943 - Cutout for Electric Lamps
  11. US 2,367,905 - 23 Jan 1945 - Cutout for Electric Lamps
  12. US 2,406,271 - 20 Aug 1946 - Base for Electric Lamps or Similar Devices
  13. US 2,449,679 - 21 Sep 1948 - Lamp Filament Support and Connection
  14. US 2,467,710 - 19 Apr 1949 - Incandescent Lamp (with Leroy G. Leighton)
  15. US 2,494,916 - 17 Jan 1950 - Electric Lamp with Blackening Collector

  1. "Book of the Incas", ca 1930.
  2. "Obituary Irving H. Van Horn", Cleveland Plain Dealer, 24 May 1981, p.13B.
  3. Thanks are extended to Anthony Scalise, Archivist at the Schenectady Museum, for valuable information unearthed by him for this brief write-up.