Light and Color

Of all the technological advances over the past century, nothing has completely altered our lives as much as electric lighting.


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A Century of Illumination

OSRAM SYLVANIA's leadership in the industry results from our proud legacy, which extends back to the dawn of the twentieth century, and points the way for continued success in years to come. In fact, the history of our company parallels the evolution of electric and its technological advances over the course of the twentieth century. It's a story rich in scientific discovery and successful entrepreneurship, which spans both sides of the Atlantic. Join us on a brief journey into OSRAM SYLVANIA's history.

Roots Back to 1901

Thomas A. Edison invented the modern incandescent light bulb in 1879, though inventors on both sides of the Atlantic had worked on artificial light sources for many years. Use of the light bulb spread, spurred on by achievements in electrical engineering led by Germany's Werner von Siemens, whose company perfected a light bulb in 1880.

SYLVANIA traces its roots back to 1901, when young entrepreneur Frank Poor became a partner in a small company in Middleton, MA, that renewed burned-out light bulbs. The company would buy an old bulb for a few cents, cut off the glass tip, replace the filament, and reseal the bulb.

Poor soon moved the business to Danvers, bought out his partner, and called his new company Bay State Lamp Company. His brothers soon joined him in the enterprise.

The OSRAM name was registered in 1906 by Auer-Gesellschaft. The name OSRAM derives from the names of two elements: Osmium, a metal; and Wolfram, the German word for tungsten. The company had been a pioneer in the development of the Osmium lamp and the tungsten filament lamp.

The Poor brothers started the Hygrade Incandescent Lamp Company in 1909 to sell new carbon-filament light bulbs and, by 1911, tungsten filament light bulbs. The Bay State refilling operation was soon discontinued. In 1916, Hygrade opened a new plant and headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts, which could turn out 16,000 lamps a day.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the Novelty Incandescent Lamp Company had been formed in 1906 to make novelty lights and refill old light bulbs. After several transitions, the company was finally purchased in 1922 by entrepreneur Bernard Erskine and two associates, who founded the Nilco Lamp Works. In 1924, Nilco formed the Sylvania Products Company to make receiving tubes for another new invention that would change the world: the radio.

As a company, OSRAM traces its roots to 1919. OSRAM was the result of a merger between three companies: AEG, Siemens & Halske AG, and Auer-Gesellschaft. All three companies had been pioneers in the development of electric light.

In 1931, Hygrade, Nilco and Sylvania representing the company's roots in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania merged to form the Hygrade Sylvania Corporation. The company sold lamps under the Hygrade name, and radio tubes under the Sylvania name. Hygrade Sylvania marketed its first fluorescent lamp in 1938, developing a complete line of fixtures called "Miralume." The Sylvan Street plant was opened in Danvers in 1941 to manufacture fluorescent lamps.

In 1942, the company changed its name to Sylvania Electric Products, Inc., and debuted the "flashing S" logo. The 1940s and 1950s witnessed enormous growth, as new plants were opened. The company increased its production of materials and components, phosphors and metals, for example, used in and other products. Sylvania also expanded into consumer electronics, television tubes and radios.

OSRAM debuted its famous tagline, "OSRAM Bright as daylight," in 1949, as the company focused on reconstruction and expansion in a new Europe. Plants were expanded, and new facilities were opened. OSRAM relocated its headquarters to Munich in 1954.

In 1959, Sylvania merged with General Telephone. The new company became known as General Telephone & Electronics and later, GTE. In 1965, the company's division opened its Danvers headquarters. In the 1970s and 1980s, the division gradually moved out of consumer electronics to focus on and precision materials.

In recent decades, SYLVANIA and OSRAM developed products with longer life, better light and greater energy efficiency. Important advances were made in the development of discharge lamp technology. In the 1980s, the SYLVANIA OCTRON® fluorescent lamp and the OSRAM DULUX® compact fluorescent lamp represented major innovations.

OSRAM SYLVANIA in its current form was created in January 1993, when OSRAM GmbH acquired the SYLVANIA and precision materials businesses in North America from GTE. The company remains a global leader in innovative products and services.