Pintsch is a name more readily associated with lighting systems using manufactured gas than with portable pressure lamps and lanterns, and the name is well known for maritime equipment, lighthouses and rail car lighting. The term Pintsch gas came to be universally known as a pure form of gas manufactured from naptha designed specially for the illumination of railroad cars. After being thoroughly purified, the gas could be compressed into storage tanks, and from them drawn off through an automatic regulator to be burned at lower pressure.
Carl Friedrich Julius Pintsch (1815 - 1884) was born in Berlin, Germany on 6th Jan 1815, and as a young boy must have grown up during a time of great development of civil lighting in the city, seeing the first gas lamps installed in Berlin during 1826. Then, after working as a plumber, he set up a business in Berlin, and from a small workshop located in a Stralau cellar in 1843 he produced small numbers of oil lamps and lanterns for his business, which he called Julius Pintsch AG. His son Julius Pintsch was born on 13 March 1844, and he would later carry on his father's business. By 1847 C.F. Julius Pintsch had designed the first successful gas meter, eventually to be used all over the world, and by 1848 through the success of his business he had begun to acquire significant other premises. In 1851 came the first lighting for railway trucks, and factories in Andreas Road Berlin were registered with Pintsch by 1863. Soon after there followed an association with the Niederschlesisch-Maerki railway. The problem of the time was that there was no safe and reliable light that could be used in moving railway cars, because the shaking and rolling movements commonly felt as the train reached speed upset the flame. Normal oil lighting was easily extinguished by the motion, so Pintsch's new gas lighting quickly became popular as it allowed travellers to stay awake longer on their journeys.
Julius Pintsch (1815-1884)
Pintsch's invention was recognized by the issue of a commemorative sterling silver spoon engraved with the company name, similar spoons were made in recognition of other designers and manufacturers who made significant inventions. Germany's first association of mechanical engineers was formed in 1881, with Julius Pintsch one of the founder members. He died on 20th January 1884.
Pintsch Spoon logo from the 1890s
Pintsch AG began installing lights in Prussian railroad cars in 1869 and in 1881 shortly before the founder's death, they opened an office in New York where the Erie Railroad was the first customer. Tanks containing gas compressed to nearly 130 pounds per square inch were mounted on each car. It was said that the cars were so brightly illuminated that one could even read by the light. Starting out with one plant in New York, the company grew to five plants in the Northeast and one in Marion, Ohio, by 1888. By 1891, a reorganized Safety Car Heating and Lighting Company was supplying gas to 2000 cars on 29 railroads from 14 locations around the United States. By 1904, 20,000 cars were being supplied from 70 plants. The peak of the industry most likely came in 1908, when 32,455 railroad cars in the USA were illuminated with Pintsch gas. Electric illumination began to become popular in 1910, and most railroads had replaced their gas lamps by the mid-1920s. Another interesting design came from patent number 30,291 for "improvements in devices for controlling the lighting and extinguishing of gas lamps, particularly applicable to Lavatory Lamps. ". By this time the company was active in Austria and Switzerland as well as Germany and the USA, and Dr. Otto Schaller was general manager of the Berlin plant.
The work of the company was not entirely confined to railway lighting. In 1890 Carl's sons Richard and Julius Pintsch successfully designed, patented and constructed a compressed gas powered light, which was able to burn unattended for many months. This type of light enabled the development of beacons, buoys, and unmanned lightships at the turn of the century. Pintsch buoys were the most successful of all the experimental compressed-gas fueled buoys due to their reliability. Originally built in Germany, the buoys were sold to the U.S. Lighthouse Service in the early 20th century through the Safety Car and Electric Company of New York. They had removable 6- to 8-foot-long cylindrical containers which held up to 12 months supply of fuel. One huge advantage was that they were relatively easy to tend, but an equally serious disadvantage was the danger involved with refueling, and several fuel tenders were lost through explosions that occurred while refilling the gas buoys.
At some point, Julius Pintsch A.G merged their interests in the newly emerging electric lighting industry with those of the Osram Company, along with Bergmann Elektrizitatswerke A.G. also in Berlin. Eventually, the Osram company came to dominate the electric lamp business in Germany completely, and Pintsch's work with electric light bulbs is also well known.
Like many large European companies of the time, Pintsch was able to diversify, and one unusual branch of manufacture took place in their Frankfurt plant, the manufacture of Edelmann typewriters. Further development brought inevitable connections with the arms industry, and after WW1 torpedoes built by Julius Pintsch in Berlin were tested in submarines of the Finnish navy. The torpedoes used a 120 hp motor capable of running for 4000 m at 30 knots while carrying a 300 kg explosive load.
Somewhere along this time-line, Pintsch had understandable involvement with kerosene fueled pressure lanterns. Probably following from the development of the Petromax lantern in the 1920s, a similar lantern was produced bearing the name Petro-Pintsch. Examples of these lanterns have the words "Made in Germany" on the fount, and the Auer glass, suggesting a date before WW2, and suggesting also that they were exported to English speaking countries. At the time of writing, little is known of the range of pressure lanterns that carried the Pintsch name, or indeed where and when they were made. One model at least approximately follows the original Petromax style.
Pintsch Kerosene lantern, possibly 1940s. Before and after restoration
The worsening situation in Europe in the 1930s eventually lead to tragic consequences, and like many other German manufacturers, Julius Pintsch AG made use of forced labour. In fact, they were one of the private companies of the time that exploited slave labour while maintaining a Swiss bank accounts for secretion of profits. It is thought that by 1944 they had a workforce of around 12,000 people. Amongst other projects, Pintsch worked on ballistics and rocket propulsion research.
During the sustained bombing raids at the end of the Second World War, the majority of the Pintsch factories were destroyed, and after 1945 the company was placed in the hands of trustees under the Potsdam Agreement, and then virtually disassembled. Some time around 1949 a new association between the vestiges of Pintsch AG with Vehicle Equipment Berlin began, and in 1956 the name changed to VEB, with a concentration on equipment for rail-mounted vehicles. After 1990 the enterprise was converted into a GmbH and moved into the trade area of Wolfener Road in Marzahn.
Today PINTSCH BAMAG is one of the most successful manufacturers of safety-technology products for railways and waterways, and being the result of the amalgamation of Julius Pintsch KG (Julius Pintsch Ltd. Partnership) and Bamag, PINTSCH BAMAG today is a subsidiary of Schaltbau AG, Munich.
As for the Pintsch family, the family grave is in the Georgen Parochial municipality cemetery (Prenzlauer mountain), and the name lives on by virtue of the street Pintschstrasse. Finally, like so many other lighting production processes, Pintsch's early work has left an unwanted heritage, in this case contamination caused by presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons released during the gas production process.
Bauert-Keetman I (1966) Deutsche Industrie Pioniere. Rainer Wunderlich Verlag, Tubingen.
1898 The Manufacture of Pintsch Gas. Scientific AmericanJuly 9, 1898 (see also http://catskillarchive.com/rrextra/sdgas.html)
Between tradition and vision http://www.pintschbamag.de
Thier S and Keilitz J Straßennamen berühmter Berliner http://www.andreas-gym.de/agym165/projekt_nr14_2.htm
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The Mariner's Museum, Chesapeake Bay http://www.mariner.org/chesapeakebay/lighthouses/cbl004.html
The GEI MGP Reporter http://www.geiconsultants.com/images/library/44.pdf Mar 2001
Maritime Topics On Stamps : Lightships http://baegis.ag.uidaho.edu/~myron/html/fschiff.htm
The Virtual Typwriter Museum http://www.typewritermuseum.org/collection/brands
Finnish Submarines http://www.hut.fi/~jaromaa/Navygallery/Submarines/submarines.htm
Levy H. (2110) Industrial Germany, a study of it's monopoly organizations and their control by the state http://socserv2.mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/levy/Germany.pdf Batoche Books 2001
Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation. (2004) www.nyed.uscourts.gov/pub/rulings/cv/1996/667202.pdf
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