March 11, 2021
Certain companies become so established in the minds of consumers that even their one-word brand names are synonymous with entire product categories. Count Coleman among them, as the mention of its name conjures a venerate line of outdoor lighting products.
There’s no telling how many hunting camps have been brightened by Coleman lanterns, how many blood trails have been exposed in the darkness or how many nighttime fishing docks have been illuminated. The company has sold more than 50 million lanterns during its 120-year history, and the brand continues to embody quality and dependability today.
William Coffin Coleman grew up in Parsons, Kan., and eventually became a part-time traveling salesman to augment his teacher’s salary. On one of his sales trips he was introduced to the pressurized gas lamp. Impressed with its potential, he bought the patent for one particular design and, after a few tweaks, introduced the Coleman Arc Lamp for indoor use.
The industrious Coleman moved to Wichita and founded the Coleman Lamp and Stove Company in 1913. He introduced his first lantern, a single-mantle model fueled by pressurized petroleum naphtha, in 1914.
Gradually, the company added other pressurized kerosene- and gas-fueled lanterns in the U.S. and Canada. In 1927, about the same time Coleman started offering camping cookstoves, a two-mantle lantern begot a new line and further cemented the company’s position as the market leader.
Times and needs changed over the ensuing decades, but not the Coleman Company’s reputation for producing a wide variety of quality outdoor recreational products—lanterns, stoves, ice chests and other camping gear among them.
Two kerosene, seven dual-fuel, 25 propane and 38 LED lanterns are in the product line nowadays. It says something about the durability of the original pressurized gas versions that outdoorsmen still scour online sales sites for replacement parts to keep trusted lanterns made decades ago in operation.
They appreciate the fact that no matter the type of fuel or design features, the company still provides what was embodied in W.C. Coleman’s long-standing slogan stamped into the base of his lanterns: "The Sunshine of the Night."