Pressure Lamps International

State Machine Products

22 Warsaw Ave, Dry Ridge, Kentucky.


Not to be confused with the company of the same name that was based in Mansfield, Ohio, between 1961 and 1964, this specific company, State Machine Products, was set up in Montana in 1970 by the same man who ran the Ohio company, Robert Montell Schoenman (1927-2015).

While running the State Machine Products, Auto Fab Manufacturing and Form-Tech Inc companies in Mansfield during the 1960s, Robert Schoenman had gained plenty of experience in dealing with Government contracts. The company did not need an extensive sales network, and didn't really need to advertise very much, which is why we see few adverts. The web site had this to say (in an extract from an article dated 1 December 1983:

"Defense contractors, regardless of their size or the sophistication of their product, are largely captive to the decisions of Washington. Consider 56-year-old Robert Schoenman, chief executive officer of State Machine Products Inc., of Dry Ridge, Ky. Schoenman has built a $5.5-million business selling Uncle Sam such prosaic products as lanterns, mess kits, and field stoves. Schoenman credits his current prosperity to Ronald Reagan. "Once he became President, the defense budget shot up," he says. "And we happened to be doing the right thing in the right place at the right time." For Schoenman, finding the right thing in the right place meant changing the business he started in 1970 in Montana. "Montana is a great place to live," he says, "but not a great place to do business -- unless you want to cut down trees or chase cows." In 1979, with the company just under $500,000 in sales, Schoenman moved to Dry Ridge, Ky. Prior to the move, the company had been concentrating on hand tools, fixtures, and replacement parts for such units as camp stoves; after the move, Schoenman decided to bid for the primary units themselves. Then came the Reagan election, and, Schoenman says, "we just took off." Capital to fund the growth was no problem -- "I found an old-fashioned country banker with the confidence to get behind us." Labor was readily available, "down-home types -- good, solid workers." And an executive staff was close at hand. "State Machine Products is a family operation. I have three sons, a daughter, a son-in-law, and a wife as part of the management team." Schoenman himself was taught the machinist's art by his father."  

As well as simply manufacturing to a specification, State Machine Products also profited from devising engineering economies for the products, and in 1980 won around $18,000 for the savings it made on the military specification lantern.


The Cincinnati Enquirer, 5 Sept 1980


The quantities of products manufactured were not small, either. In 1981 State Machine Products made 1,313,650 mess kits at $3 each, according to the Philadelphia Enquirer, July 1985. These contracts paid well, and enabled very significant growth such that the business was ranked in the top 100 fastest growing companies in the USA between 1977 and 1981, with food service and lighting equipment (i.e. mess kits and gasoline lanterns) among its products.


Extract from article in the Courier-Journal, Dec 1982

The ethic of State Machine Products seems to be that of a good, honest family business. There had been previous falling out between the unions and the company president, when it came to business ethics then honesty prevailed.



Article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, February 1983, fraud over the gasoline lantern bid.


As time passed, more government contracts were won. In 1987 State Machine Products were awarded a $3.7 M contract for backpack frames and straps for army, navy, air force, and marines. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 5 Oct 1987 p26) Production continued through into the late 1980s and early 90s, by which time Robert M Schoenman was still president, and his son Robert A Schoenman was vice president.

Finally, in March 1992 the company was acquired by AMG, (the Alpha Manufacturing Group Inc, a subsidiary of Alpha Solarco which was created solely for the acquisition) for a reported figure of over $3 M, with some of the outstanding Defense contracts for army field equipment assigned over to the new owners. It is unlikely that many of the final military specification lanterns were made in the plant after this date, if they were, then technically AMG were the manufacturers responsible.

In spite of persistent rumours, as stated elsewhere, it is unlikely that prisoners were used as workers during the making of the lanterns.

The military specification lantern, or "milspec" lantern remains a popular lantern for collectors around the world, many of whom aspire to owning an example for each year of production, or at least one of each manufacturer. The lanterns can usually be identified by a code embossed on the underside of the fount giving maker ad date.



The Cincinnati Enquirer 5 Sep 1980 p27, 10 Feb 1983 p59, 5 Oct 1987 p26

The Courier Journal (Louisville) 14 Dec 1982 p10

The Philadelphia Enquirer 21July 1985, p98




Other manufacturers of the military specification lantern include many well known names:
Manufacturer Years (Approximate)
Akron Lamp Co 1944
American Gas Machine Co 1944, 1945 and 1951
Armstrong Products 1977 and 1978
Auto Fab Manufacturing 1967
Coleman 1944, 1945, 1952-61, 1963-69, 1973-76, and 1979
Form Tech Inc 1971 and 1972
King Seely (Thermos) 1963
State Machine Products Inc 1980 to 1991

Links to other sites

Links to other sites - this page is desperately in need of an update! It's coming soon, but in the meantime here are a few of the best internet sites for lamp collectors.   David Greenwood - a knowledgeable and friendly collector is at    Currently off-line Fil Graf has one of the original reference sites at Juan has a good site for Focus and Petromax at ...

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