The Dietz brand is one of the best-known and most prominent brands in the field of hurricane lanterns and is still active today.
Dietz's history dates back to 1840 when Robert Edwin Dietz started a small lamp and oil shop in Brooklyn. His brother assisted him, and the name became Dietz brother and Company. One of the first productions was a small lantern for a candle. Later they also produced various candlesticks, oil lamps, pendant lamps, and chandeliers. Three other brothers joined the Company in 1855, and the name changed to Dietz and Company. In the same year, they also built a large factory in New York City. In 1856 Dietz patented a flat wick holder for kerosene, which was cheap fuel in those years. This was the first patent of many to follow. In the years that followed, Dietz opened offices in London and San Francisco and continued to grow steadily. In 1868 Robert E. Dietz sold his share and continued with Absalom Smith under the name Dietz & Smith. This was only very short-lived. The business was not going well; there was just enough money to be paid. Smith took money out of the Company for a luxurious life and invested a lot of money in bicycle lights for velocipede bicycles with a large front wheel and a small rear wheel. There was just not enough market for this. Robert E. Dietz decided to end the partnership a year after it was founded and continued alone under the name R.E. Dietz Company in 1869. It turns out that Robert E. Dietz was the driving force, as Dietz and Company didn't last long after his departure.
Robert Dietz understood the importance of air displacement and patented the Hot-Blast designed by John Irwin. In the beginning, sales were not very good because people thought the storm lanterns were ugly, but after a while, people started to see the advantages of this model, and sales started to run. Dietz continued to innovate, beating or buying up every competitor. This is partly due to the many patents that Dietz now owns and the many discussions that have taken place about this. Dietz has also taken over a large part of its competitors. Dietz kept getting more prominent mainly for the patents and the design of other lanterns, and the storm lamps kept improving. In 1894 Robert E. Dietz's son Frederick (Fred) Dietz took over. Fred was as innovative as his father, applying for 25 new patents, designing the logo, and expanding international sales. In 1897 Dietz suffered a significant setback. The factory in New York City burned down; only the four outer walls were left standing. The story goes that Fred never told his father that the factory had burned down; Robert R. Dietz died in the same year, four months after the fire, without knowing it.
Joint venture with The Steam Gauge and Lantern Company
Frederick Dietz teamed up with The Steame Gauge and Lantern Company, which already had a 50% stake, to continue production and took over completely a month after the fire. The new factory was in Syracuse. In the meantime, the factory in New York City was rebuilt and used as office space; this factory still stands in Greenwich Village, and today it contains apartments.
Dietz in the early twentieth century
In 1899 Dietz started tinning the lanterns, which significantly improved their lifespan. The Dietz Blizzard was introduced during this time; this model is still in production 121 years later. A few years later, in 1903, the Dietz Junior was introduced. In 1913 the competitor CT Ham came out with a storm lantern, the Nu-Style. Dietz saw these benefits, took over CT Ham, and renamed the Nu-Style storm lantern the D-Lite. The D-lite is now Dietz's most popular storm lamp.
In 1915 Frederick Dietz died at the age of 68, he had no children, and his shares were divided. The leadership was taken over by his younger brother John Dietz. Each Dietz employee employed for more than a year received a gift from Frederick Dietz's legacy. Sometimes this was even equal to an annual salary.
Business went less well after that; John Dietz did not have the same success as his father and brother. The company did grow until 1923, but the great depression in the 1930s caused a sharp drop in turnover. In the 1940s, they also faced a lot of competition from Feuerhand, who took advantage of the situation to gain a foothold in America. John Dietz died in 1936, while the Dietz company was on the brink of collapse. His son Robert II Dietz, who was previously not considered capable enough by his father and had become a farmer, took charge after his father's death. They have only just stood up. At this time, they stopped tinning and started painting the lanterns instead.
Dietz after World War II
After the Second World War, things improved again, this may be partly due to the cessation of German production, and there was a lot of demand for safety lanterns along the highway. In 1948, Dietz introduced the Comet, which became the official lantern of the Boy Scouts, America's largest scouting organization. In 1950, Robert's son, Gerry (Gary) Dietz, took over the business. From 1955, kerosene was no longer allowed to be used along the roads, resulting in a sharp drop in turnover, and the lanterns were only used in places with no electricity. In 1950 the factory in Greenwich village was closed. Gerry realized that rigorous decisions had to be made and, in 1957, opened R.E. Dietz., LTD Hong Kong, to be able to produce more cheaply. This eventually led to the closure of the Syracuse factory in 1970, with all production moved to Hong Kong. In 1967 Gerry's son had taken over, John Dietz.
Movement to Hong Kong
Going to Hong Kong turned out to be a good choice. Ultimately, the move to Hong Kong turned out to be a great success; 10 years later, Dietz was producing 1.5 million storm lamps per year. Innovation also continued with battery-operated strobes for road safety applications.
In 1978 the company was taken over by Edward Reynolds; after 138 years, the company is owned by someone outside the family for the first time. In 1982, the entire production moved to China.
The Dietz storm lamps are still produced here, now under the direction of the Mak family. Dietz continues to make according to the high-quality standard with which they grew up, in contrast to a legion of other imitation brands that shamelessly copy Dietz's storm lamps. Dietze took over many companies.
Below is an overview of the companies that Dietz has acquired:
- Archer, Pancoast and Co in 1868
- Chicago Manufacturing Co. was acquired in 1873 by Dennis and Wheeler, Dennis and Wheeler was acquired in 1881 by The Steam Gauge and Lantern Co., and The Steam Gauge and Lantern Co. was taken over again by Dietz in 1897, after the factory fire.
- CT Ham, was acquired in 1913 for the Nu-Style storm lantern, later renamed D-Lite.
- Nail City Lantern Co/Wheeling Stamping Co, Lantern Division Only, in 1946
- Defiance Lantern and Stamping Co was acquired in 1935 by Embury Manufacturing and Embury Manufacturing was acquired again in 1953 by Dietz.