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Welsbach Gas Light Company photograph album


Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

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The Welsbach Gas Light Company (also called The Welsbach Company or The Welsbach Incandescent Gas Light Company) operated at a site along the Delaware River in Gloucester City, New Jersey from the 1888 to 1940. They had exclusive manufacturing and sales rights to the Welsbach gas mantle, a device made of fibers impregnated with oxides of thorium and cerium that produced bright white light when heated with a gas flame. Invented in 1880s by Austrian scientist Carl Auer Von Welsbach (1858-1929), gas mantles were used extensively in street lighting and in gas-powered appliances. Today, they are still found in portable camping lamps and some oil lanterns. At peak production, the Welsbach factory employed 2,000 people, including a large number of women, who were skilled at the sewing and other precision handwork involved in the manufacturing process. In addition to mantles, the company made related items such as lamp chimneys, burners, and globes, indoor-outdoor arc lamps, hydrocarbon lamps, and thorium nitrate, a mildly radioactive compound that was of interest to Marie Curie, who visited the Welsbach factory to observe its production in 1921.

Album containing 52 black and white photographs documenting various aspects of the production process at the Welsbach Gas Light Company site located along the Delaware River in Gloucester City, New Jersey. The album, which has been digitized in its entirety, provides a valuable visual record of all aspects of the production process, showing a wide range of machinery, and male and female employees working at various tasks including chemical production, machining metal parts, sewing, assembly, testing, packaging, and shipping.

Purchased for collection. Walkabout Books, November 2020.

The entirety of this album has been digitized and is available in our Digital Collections:

Method of acquisition--Purchased for collection; Date of acquisition--2020.

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