Good morning everyone! This morning’s look at an ad from an early 1960s Boys’ Life is for the Burgess Battery Company, purveyors of fine dry cell batteries and flashlights to use those batteries in. I had never heard of Burgess Batteries, and while I can confirm the existence of such a company, as well as some limited history on the man behind it, hard information on history of the company seems to be seriously lacking. The company seems to have experienced a revival of sorts in the 2007-2010 timeframe, that quickly came and went, and the website for that company was the primary historical source for much of the information on the web. Even utilizing the very helpful Wayback Machine only aids in discerning the first few years of company operation (I also found a blog post from the new owner of Burgess, but it links to the same dead website). Take a look past the jump to learn what can be learned about Burgess, and if you have some secret info be sure to share!
‘Charles Frederick Burgess (June 5, 1873 Oshkosh, Wisconsin – February 13, 1945 Chicago, Illinois) was an American chemist and engineer. He was founder of the University of Wisconsin-Madison department of Chemical Engineering in 1905, and was a pioneer in the development of electrochemical engineering. In 1917 he founded the Burgess Battery Company.
He became an engineering consultant and later a board member of the French Battery Company in Madison, Wisconsin, which produced dry cells to his design used by the US Army in World War I. In 1913 he resigned from the University. His relationship with the French Battery Company deteriorated, and so in 1917 he founded the Burgess Battery Company, which became an important manufacturer of dry cell batteries for flashlights, radio, and other applications. The Burgess Battery Company eventually became part of Mallory Battery, now known as Duracell.’ (Wikipedia)
The French Battery Company is still around today, but you may know it more commonly as Rayovac, the name it switched to in the early 1930s (fundinguniverse.com). When Burgess began work with French Battery in 1907, he rated their current batteries as the worst on the market. By 1910 the company had turned profitable, behind Burgess’s battery developments. The company experienced two separate fires (1910 and 1915) that each nearly destroyed the factory, and after the second fire Burgess departed (in 1916) to found the company that carried his name, allowing French to continue producing the products he had developed under license. (engr.wisc.edu)
Burgess also published an Index of Radio Broadcasting Stations, that included ads for their various batteries and flashlights, as well as some instructions for proper wiring up of battery sets in series or parallel depending on desired output. The primary content of the index was a listing of all American and Canadian radio stations at the time of publication (the linked index is from 1927, a year or two before this Boys’ Life ad).
These batteries even made an appearance in Back to the Future III, when the 1955 Doc used them to power the 1985 walkie talkies to be taken back to 1885.
‘Make Light of the Night’ ad images are taken by me, delivery truck image is from wisconsinhistory.org, robot ad is from modernmechanix.com, Back to the Future image from yourprops.com, battery collection image is from ericwrobbel.com, flashlight image is from flashlightmuseum.com, the No. 2 cell image is from icollect247.com, and the ‘Blade of Light’ ad is also from modernmechanix.com.