Pressure Lamps International

The Best Street Light Co. (324 E 5th Street, Canton, Ohio)
The Best Light Co
The "Best" Light Co
The Sun Vapor Street Light Co


©AWMoore 2004


The story of the Best Light Company begins with Martin Best, born in Pennsylvania in 1825. There were four children to his marriage with Elizabeth Clark - William, Clem, Eva and Jay. Martin worked a manager to the stove and tin company Sharp & Craig in Steubenville before moving to Canton and setting up his own business. Working with one Henry Russell, he bought out the tinner's shop of Little & Horn. After a series of impressive deals, Martin Best sold all of his interests and set up his own metalworking shop, his endeavors culminating in the invention in 1881 of a gas burner which he named the Sun Vapor Burner. Along with L and J Miller, he set up the Sun Vapor Street Light Company in 1888, and took the post of vice president and general manager. In 1890, he sold out again, but retained a nominal directorship. The Sun Vapor Co manufactured burners used in street lighting, and also arranged the lighting to operate using naphtha when coal gas was not available. It is considered probable that they did not produce portable pressure lamps and lanterns.

Martin's second son Clem V. Best was born in 1853, and it was only natural that the boy would follow in his fathers footsteps. Clem was eventually to spend the rest of his life in Canton, and become a very well respected elder of the society. While still a boy, Clem became very interested in lighting and the kinds of metalworking techniques his father used. He was curious about how the various types of light making equipment worked, and in a short time he found himself working in the lighting trade. Eventually he became head of a local company, the Ohio Lighting Company, which soon merged with the Sun Vapor Company. In 1896 Clem left Sun Vapor and with his brother Jay Grant Best, pooled their interests and knowledge, and started The Best Light Company. He served as its president and superintendent, and was the holder of a number of patents relating to lights and lighting appliances. During this period the company had a multiple identity, it was known also as The Best Street Light Co and also The "Best" Light Co.


The Red Cloud Chief, Nebraska, February 1899


Reno Gazette Journal, November 1899


Omaha Daily Bee, October 1899


It is likely (and logical) that the Best Street Light Co dealt mainly with the supply of street lamps to Municipal Authorities, because the financial reports from across the states in America refer to that name.


Extract from report, the Cameron County Press (Emporium) Nov 1900


By around 1906 the word "Street" seems to have been dropped, but the inverted commas often continue to appear in print. It can be seen that the name used on the badges of old lamps may be a partial guide to when they were made, but only with due caution.



Two Adverts from 1907


1912 Best advert

Advert from Popular Mechanics, October 1912

Clem Best retired from active business in 1920, and although the Best Street Light Co did not appear to trade after that date, he was still identified with the lighting industry in Canton until his death in 1929. His older brother J. Grant Best died in 1923. His son Howard Best (1874-1962) was superintendent of the Best Light Co for a period of time as well

In the early days the company concentrated on wick type lighting devices burning kerosene, mainly the type that would be used in street lighting, but by the end of the 1890s they were trying and testing gas and gasoline burners in the plant at 25 East 5th Street, Canton. The range included pressurised lamps for indoor and outdoor use, and hollow wire system lighting. By 1905 the company had a 48 page illustrated catalogue of gas and oil lamps for the home, inside and outside. Lighting included street lamps, chandeliers, student lamps, floor lamps and table lamps. Several styles of decorative domes are shown in this catalogue. Model numbers include the 58 and 81, 82, 84 and 94 Air Pressure Arc Lamps, along with 237 bracket lamps, 226 and 227 table lamps, 222 high output outdoor lamp, and lamps 94 and 95 in the style of the old harp-frame Arc lights. There are many other models, some with known catalogue numbers, others without an identifying number. All are very much sought after among collectors, and are comparatively rare. The range does not appear to include any pressure lanterns, a surprising observation considering the versatility of incandescent vapour devices.

best light01 best 1903 01 best 02

This is a model 82 lamp, 1000cp, shown lighting a wharf.

Most of the surviving products from Best Street Lighting seem to be the gravity feed type, and I do not know whether this reflects a specialisation in that particular area and larger numbers of lamps, or whether it results from examples of a simpler, trouble free style surviving better than a more complex design that required constant maintenance.

After the company closed, the premise were acquired by the Hupp Corporation, and used for production of their Hercules engine.

Good quality pictures of working Best Street Lighting equipment are rare, so if you would like to contribute to this page I would be please to hear from you.


Canton Repository (1929) Obituary, Best, Clem. Internet submission (1998) by Ross McClain

Canton Repository (1962) Obituary, Best, Howard G. Internet submission (1998) by Ross McClain.

Hobson A. (1997) Lanterns that lit our world Book two. Golden Hill Press, New York.

Stark County Ohio (1883) Portrait and Biography Record of Stark County Ohio pages 346-347. Internet submission by Ross McClain (1998)

The Best Light (1903) Advertising Brochure. The Best Street Light Company, Canton.

The Best Light (1905) Maximum Light and Minimum Cost - The Best Street Light Catalogue. The Best Street Light Company, Canton. 48pp

Popular Mechanics Magazine January 1907 p174

Popular Mechanics Magazine, October 1912 p153

Red Cloud Chief, Nebraska, 10 February 1899 p5

Reno Gazette Journal 18 November 1899 p2

Omaha Daily Bee, 14 October 1899 p11

Cameron County Press 8 November 1900 p5







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