William C. Embury was born in Napanee, Ontario, Canada December 17, 1873. After his graduation from the Napanee school system in January 1889 he started working at the Rathbun Company of Deseronto, Ontario, Canada. Three years later he moved to Toronto, Ontario to take a position in sales for the Kemp Mfg. Co. of that city. Kemp manufactured various tin-ware products including a limited line of tubular kerosene lanterns. During his five-year tenure with Kemp, he developed a keen interest in lanterns and a desire to possibly start his own lantern business. History is a bit clouded at this point, but William's mechanically minded brother-in-law, James Harvey Hill, knew of William's goal and started working on different approaches of improving lantern design. William, at the same time, contacted several investors in Toronto for financial assistance. Both were successful. James was able to apply for and receive U.S. Patent #628804 dated July 11, 1899 and Patent # 649452 dated May 15, 1900 and William was able to secure the required backing.
The “Defiance Lantern & Stamping Company” was formed in Rochester, NY. The name “Defiance” was in defiance of the various established lantern manufacturers already in existence in the Rochester area. The new business was incorporated in 1900 and began producing lanterns at 27 North Washington St., Rochester, NY ( the same address as the Rochester Lantern Company), and in 1903 moved to 15 Caledonia Ave., Rochester, NY. The first Defiance lanterns produced show both patent dates listed above. The company prospered to the point that the financial backers insisted that members of their families, who had no manufacturing or sales experience, become partners in the business. William refused to accept that mandate and resigned from Defiance in 1908.
While living in Rochester, three sons were born in the Embury family; Philip Walker Embury (June 30-1902), Frederick Bridgland Embury (Feb. 29-1904), and William James Embury (April 13-1909). All three will eventually become officers in the company.
A new company was incorporated on November 27, 1908, the “Embury Manufacturing Company”, located at 189 Platt Street, Rochester, NY. The directors were: William Embury, his wife Edna, and Frederick Lorne Walker (Edna's brother). The “Camlox” and “Windsor” brands were introduced winning a wide acceptance in the lantern market. The Camlox lanterns were made from premium grade (IXAA quality) tin, while the Windsor lanterns were made from a lesser grade (IX quality) to offer a lower priced product. The first catalog shows the #0 Camlox at $6.50/ dozen and the #0 Windsor at $5.75/ dozen. The charge for painting the lanterns, if required, was 25 cents per dozen. These brands were of tubular construction, with both hot blast and cold blast models available. The cold blast lanterns were fitted with a 1” wick and a tall globe giving 10 C.P. of light. Various improvements in lantern design, mainly combustion improvements, allowed a shorter globe to be used in the cold blast models maintaining the 10 C.P. output.
The short globe allowed the hottest air generated by the flame to heat the metal chimney rather than the glass.
Lantern designs were altered for special purpose use by adding reflectors to the back, and spring mechanisms for attachment to buggies, wagons, and other vehicles. Hoods were added for inspection lighting, usually incorporating a silvered mirror in back of the globe. They were also made with brass founts for use in damp environments (such as in the mining industry), and some were made entirely of brass.
The Warsaw Improvement Company approached William to possibly relocate the company in Warsaw, NY. A new facility for the production of lanterns would be built on the outskirts of the village with easy access to both the Erie and B&O railroads for shipping products. Finding this package beneficial, an agreement was made on December 9, 1910 to relocate the factory in Warsaw, NY at 200 Allen Street. The actual move took place following completion of the new building (circa 1911-1912).
In the ensuing years, the Embury business enjoyed a better than average share of the lantern market due to constant product improvements and new lantern designs. The Camlox and Windsor brands were still the main products but were slowly phased out when the “Supreme” brand of lanterns was introduced about 1916-1918. In 1914, James Hill designed the “Duplex” Carriage Lamp (Patent #D46093, issued July14,1914). James was also listed as the Vice President at that time.
Battery operated lanterns were introduced about 1922 with various shapes and sizes (William Embury patents #D65257 and #1586616) as a possible replacement for thekerosene lanterns for domestic use and also by railroad conductors (which at times the lantern flame and fuel scorched and left oil stains on clothing). This product line did not prove very successful, and the tooling along with patent rights were sold in 1932 either to the Eveready Co. or the Bond Electric Co.. Electric lantern models from both companies were produced from the Embury tooling.
William's son Bill joined the company after his high school graduation about 1925. His main duties were to learn all phases of lantern manufacturing by working every station in each department. He also was responsible for recommending improvements for a more efficient operation, reporting directly to his father. Philip, the oldest son, joined the company in 1930 as Secretary replacing Fred Rice. William's son Fred also joined the company as Treasurer in 1932.
The Defiance Lantern & Stamping Co., which was founded by W.C. Embury in 1900, was not producing enough to remain profitable, so it was purchased by William in 1930. The purchase price was $28,758.66 for inventory, and $15,000 for machinery and tooling. Lanterns produced in Warsaw using Defiance parts were also embossed with the Embury name.
Edna Embury resigned as Vice President in 1934. Philip became the new V.P. and Sales Mgr.. Bill replaced him as Secretary and also became Factory Superintendent. William resigned as President in 1936 and remained active as Chairman of the Board. Philip became President and Sales Manager,
Fred became the V.P. and Plant Manager, and Bill became Treasurer and remained Factory Superintendent. Milton Barlow was appointed Secretary.
The Interstate Commerce Commission's safety regulations for the commercial trucking industry took effect on July 1, 1937. This required all trucks to carry torches, flares, and lanterns designed for this environment. Embury met the challenge with it's “Luck-E-Lite” line of products to meet the regulations. The #25 Truck Lantern was introduced on September 22,1937 (Patent #D105656). At the same time a line of torch, flare, and fusee products were designed and offered to the market. The #25 lantern was modified slightly and sold as the #225 Contractor's lantern to meet the rugged conditions around construction sites. Both models were in high demand.
The “Air Pilot” line of lanterns was introduced in 1939 to replace the “Supreme” models. The #2 Air Pilot replaced the #160 Supreme, the #1 Air Pilot replaced the #150 Supreme. On September 8, 1939, the #40 “Traffic-Gard” was introduced as a compact warning lantern for use by contractors and public utilities.
World War II created some problems by restricting the use of tin, the War Production Board (WPB) included lanterns on the list of products that must switch over to “terne” plated steel. This new material did not have the bright, shiny appearance of tin, nor did it hold up well in the weather. Lanterns made from this metal had to be painted so a new electrostatic paint system was installed to efficiently paint the products without creating a significant cost increase.
During the war years, Fred Embury designed and was awarded a patent (#2369288) for a battery powered emergency light for use on naval vessels and submarines that would be energized when the main power was interrupted. Also the machine shop operated 24 hours a day making pawl assemblies for machine guns.
On January 10, 1947, another new Air Pilot model was introduced to the market, the #0 Air Pilot. This model was a modernized hot blast lantern replacing the popular #210 Supreme. A majority of this model's production was shipped overseas, mainly in post-war Europe.
The demand for kerosene lanterns was dwindling partly due to the accelerated rural electrification programs and the reconstruction of electrical generating facilities overseas. At a March 9, 1951 board meeting, plans were made to step-up sales strategies to overcome the slump, also the possibility of dissolving the business. Production continued until early 1953 when operations ceased. After lengthy negotiations, the business was sold on January 6, 1953, and finalized on March 1 to the R.E. Dietz Co., Syracuse, NY. All the tooling, parts-in-process, and machinery were relocated at the Dietz plant in Syracuse. Dietz continued to produce the #40 Traffic-Gard in Syracuse, NY, and the Air Pilot tooling was sent to the Lux S.A. Co., Monterray, Mexico for continued production. It is thought that the balance of the tooling wound up in Hong Kong. William J. Embury was the only family member that continued in this line of business, joining the Dietz sales force shortly after the takeover.
Listing of the more popular Embury lantern models by number and production years:
No. 0 Camlox Hot Blast, & H. B. Dash w/30 hour fount, (1908- c1916)
No. 2 Camlox Hot Blast w/ 35 hour fount, (1908- c1916)
No. 2 Camlox Cold Blast w/ short globe, (1908-c1916)
No. 2 Camlox Cold Blast w/ brass fount & short globe (c1910-1916)
No. 2 Camlox Cold Blast and C.B. Dash w/ tall globe & 35 hour fount, (1908- c1916)
No. 32 Camlox Cold Blast w/ tall globe & 48 hour fount, (1908- c1916)
No. 200 Cold Blast Searchlight, (1908- c1916)
No. 120 Cold Blast Reflector Lamp, (1908- c1916)
No. 93 Tubular Globe Street Lamp, (1908- c1916)
No. 93 Tubular Globe Hanging Lamp (1908-c1916)
No. 124 “Midget” Cold Blast, & Midget Cold Blast Dash (1908- c1916)
No. 130 “Midget” Cold Blast Vehicle Lamp, (1908- c1916)
No. 140 Railway Inspector's Lamp, (1908- c1925)
No. 141 Hood Dash Lamp, (1908- c1916)
No. 0 Windsor Hot Blast, and H.B. Dash with 30 hour fount, (1908- c1918)
No. 2 Windsor Hot Blast, 35 hour fount, (1908- c 1918)
No. 2 Windsor Cold Blast w/ tall globe, (1908- c1916)
No. 32 Windsor Cold Blast w/ tall globe & 48 hour fount, (1908- c1916)
No. 2 Windsor Cold Blast Dash w/ tall globe & 35 hour fount, (191908- c1916)
“Duplex” Driving Lamp (1914- c 1920)
No. 61 Supreme Cold Blast w/ 35 hour brass fount (c1916- c1936)
No. 124 “Midget” Cold Blast w/ 24 hour fount (c1916- c1930)
No. 130 “Midget” Vehicle Cold Blast w/ 24 hour fount (c1916- c1930)
No. 150 Little Supreme Cold Blast w/ 30 hour fount (c1916-1947)
No. 156 Little Supreme Vehicle Lantern w/ 30 hour fount (c1916-1944)
No. 160 Supreme Cold Blast w/ 35 hour fount (c1916-1944)
No. 162 Supreme Cold Blast w/ 48 hour fount (c1916-1944)
No. 210 Supreme Hot Blast w/ 30 hour fount (c1916-1947)
No. 240 Supreme Cold Blast, tall globe & 35 hour fount (c1916-1944)
No. 350 Little Supreme Cold Blast w/ 70 hour fount (c1916-1951)
No. 200 Supreme & No. 300 E-Lite Battery Operated Lanterns (1922-1932)
No. 500 Highway Lantern w/ 100 hour fount (1934-1944)
No. 25 Luck-E-Lite Truck Lantern (1937-1944, 1949-1952)
No. 225 Luck-E-Lite Contractor's Lantern (1937-1944, 1949-1952)
No. 0 Air Pilot (1947-1953)
No. 1 Air Pilot & No. 2 Air Pilot (1939-1953)
No. 350 Little Air Pilot (1951-1953)
No. 40 Traffic-Gard (1939-1953)