The company began life at the turn of the twentieth century when W. C. Coleman was taking his usual route home from work and spotted a brightly glowing lamp in a shop window. W. C. Coleman suffered from poor eyesight and struggled to read under the flickering gas lamps of the time. As such, he was a little more than intrigued by the bright light emitted by this lamp and set to work to learn as much about it as possible. Over a century later, the Coleman name has grown to be one of the best loved brands on market and is beloved by outdoor types around the globe.
The first example of a Coleman light being used commercially was in 1905, when W. C. Coleman offered the use of his innovative gas lamps to light a night time game of football. In this era, out in the Kansas countryside, electricity simply wasn’t a possibility. This meant that days were plotted by the hours of sunlight. Never before had the people of Kansas been able to play a game of football at night and W. C. Coleman’s lighting solution took the town by storm. He was soon in very high demand for his 300 candlepower lantern, which had the ability to light up a 100 yards radius, making it the perfect tool for lighting a barn. This led to a monumental increase in productivity and the company really took off.
In fact, Coleman’s lamp was considered an essential bit of equipment in both the First and Second World Wars. Having already used the lamp in the First World War, the United States government knew what Coleman was capable of. It was for this reason that, when they found themselves in need of a portable cooker which could not only take any fuel but would also work in any condition – all in a size smaller than a quart bottle of milk. The company delivered and the portable stove was praised as the second most important piece of non-military equipment in the war, right behind the Jeep.
The success of Coleman stoves in the war meant that when the soldiers returned home they were drawn to the brand name. This led to a huge rise in the popularity of portable stoves being used in camping and it was this area of the industry where the brand was really able to take off. Over the years the camping side of the business grew exponentially, and cool boxes (made from innovative plastic ‘bubbles’) and even sleeping bags and tents were quick to join the vast product range on offer. By 1962, the company stocked a complete range of camping gear for the up-and-coming middle classes.
Today, for us anglers, we still know the name Coleman best for its excellent stoves and lantern. It’s a rare day when we don’t spot one or the other down on the bankside and although the technology might have changed the passion for innovation never has. It seems almost unbelievable that the whole business started from one man’s wish to read easily at night.