Pressure Lamps International

Kitson Empire Lighting - Kelite Lamps

©AWMoore 1999

Kelite is the brand name for the Kitson-Empire Lighting Co, Stamford, England.

Arthur Kitson was one of the pioneers in pressure mantle lamps at the turn of the century. By 1902, Kitson had made and patented a device relating to "apparatus adapted to render mantles incandescent", so was obviously in the business of converting open flame burners to mantles. Ten years before, in 1892, Pierre Louis Giradet of Paris patented what might have been the first pressurised do-nut lamp (with an annular fuel reservoir), though this had an open flame rather than a mantle. It is reasonable to suppose that Kitson would have taken other products such as this and developed them to give better light, and he certainly did produce a range of do-nut lamps, probably the first mantle lamps of this style. In the early years of the new century, Kitson worked with William Still of London and they shared at least one patent. He also raised patents refering to Kitson Empire Lighting of Lincolnshire, and an example is shown below.

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Kitson had expanded the Kitson Empire Lighting Company, and by 1920 he could claim to be "supplier of goods to the British and all the Allied Governments in large quantities". An Advertisement of that time illustrates the Kelite Incandescent Lamp, a range of do-nuts from 200 candle power up to 1200 candle power. Kitson-Empire also claim to be the "Originators of incandescent oil lighting"

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This company must be a significant contributor to the development of pressure lighting, but it's products were, nevertheless, not strong competitors for the likes of Tilley, Bialaddin, Primus, Coleman and Petromax, once these companies became established. The badge with the initials K.E.L. Co which appears on the lamp fount is a small neat brass pressing, shown below. Kitson-Empire were known to still be operating in 1926, but I have no other information beyond this date. In 1923, Patents were taken out by Kitson Engineering Company (London) Ltd, registered in Stamford, Lincolnshire, so we know there must have been other Arthur Kitson companies involved.

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Kelite logo, a neat brass pressing soldered to the fount.

The only Kelite lantern I have seen is a fairly standard design, perhaps with the exception of the ventilator top.

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Kelite Lantern from the collection of Mick Emm, Scotland

This lantern was found in Doncaster, which is not very far from Stamford, so it is possible that there was a local connection. I have seen very few advertisements, leaflets or catalogues for Kelite, or K.E.L. Co and I would welcome any comments regarding the company.


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