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Vintage 3 In 1 Flashlights


3 in 1 flashlights

I put together this Gallery to share the 3 in 1 flashlights, (all different in some way) along with some interesting information below with photos. If you thought only Franco, Yale and Bond had these. Think again. It's a long read, but, a lot of info and confusion to go with it.

UPDATE 5-26-2018: I found some more information on another 3 in 1 flashlight by.... Ray-O-Vac, I have an ad from 1929 showing the flashlight. The Ray-O-Vac has the buttons that line up on the switch like Blaco and USALite. So now we have Ray-O-Vac in the mix, and proof is in the 1929 ad. The only difference I can see, is the Ray-O-Vac head is different from the Blaco and USALite. You should be able to notice it in the ad. So this really makes this a mystery... and a bit confusing. Now to find the flashlight.

We know there's a connection with the French Battery Co. Blake and Ray-O-Vac... we also have to include the brand name of Blaco, which was made by... Blake. Maybe someone out there can sort this out? I give up!

You can see the Ray-O-Vac signaling 3 n 1 flashlight below the Blaco at the end of this gallery. You can view the 1929 ad, and I typed what it says about the flashlight so you can read it.

View the Ray-O-Vac 1929 ad

This was another big find after the USALite, and before the Ray-O-Vac 3 in 1 flashlights, this time with the brand name of Blaco, which was made by Blake MFG. (this changes things) with the Blaco end cap, with 4 buttons. The Blaco/Blake and the USALite look a like except the USALite has 3 buttons, and under the reflector where the bulbs go to make contact, is different from all the others including the USALite. (photo at the end)

The French Company bought Blake in 1929, so maybe USALite bought the rights from Blake before they sold out to the French, and came out with their own version in 1928, or did Blake make the flashlight for USALite? Either way, this changes things with Bond and USALite as first thought. I have some patent numbers at the end if you're interested with some more info. Another flashlight mystery.

More Facts »

Needless to say, this is getting more interesting and more confusing since my first 3 in 1 flashlight showed up! Now I have 10 in my collection, including the Ray-O-Vac.

The early 3 in 1 Franco had 2 different end caps and 2 switch designs. Then Franco came up with the 3 separate switch design and later became Yale. The first Yale 3 in 1 had, 'Patent Applied For' on the end cap with the Yale logo, the Yale 3 in 1 on this page does not have 'Patent Applied For' but, does have the Yale logo and markings. Would it be safe to say it was a transitional piece? It had the same switch design, the same body and the same head. The end cap is the only difference. My guess is, this flashlight would have been during the transition period from Franco to Yale. So I'm thinking Franco had left over lights and all Yale did was change the end caps! Which makes sense.

Then Yale became Bond and they still look the same, and again, maybe only the end caps were changed. The flashlight stayed the same until Blake in 1927 and USALite in 1928, came out with their models. Then Winchester got in the action at that end after merging with Bond through Olin. I did see another 3 in 1 flashlight on eBay with the Winchester question mark end cap, but this one looks just like the Blake and USALite 3 in 1 flashlight. Has only patented printed on the neck. No date. I think the end cap is wrong for this period by Winchester. The Winchester 3 in 1 below has a different end cap and is about right for the period that came out in their 1938 catalog. The flashlight sold for over $170, so I'm sure a Winchester guy bought that one. Should have done some research. Confused yet?


Ideas On The 3 In 1 Flashlights

I sent some pics and talked with a 'Real Flashlight Expert'. These are just some of his ideas on the 3 in 1 flashlights. Steve Giterman, (contributor to the Flashlight Museum) who knows a lot more than I do. Read below.

These lights were made by Franco, Yale, Bond, USALite, and possibly Winchester (see below). They are all similar; all use 3 D cells, and have three bulbs, a clear one in the center, and a red and green bulb on each side of the reflector. When using the center bulb, the flashlight functioned as a regular 3 cell spotlight. But, they could also be used to signal a danger or stop signal by lighting the red bulb, or go or proceed by using the green bulb. Each bulb could also be flashed on and off by pressing the button over the top of the switch. You can see how these could be useful for traffic, emergency, or railroad use. They were marketed to police and fire departments, railroads and the Boy Scouts for signaling. A patent was filed by Edmund Barany on Dec. 21, 1921, and the patent was granted on March 13, 1923. The light continued to be produced through the early 1930's under different names.

Please Note: The Winchester model was in the 1938 Winchester catalog. If you take the 3 in 1 flashlight from the Franco years, this flashlight was sold for at least 18-19 years.

Each light used large bulbs that has a uncoiled wire filament in the shape of the letter S. (see photo below) The red and green bulbs were painted with a flat finish paint.

Originally, the lights had a single switch to control all three lights which did not prove to be practical, as the bulbs could not be independently lit with this arrangement (see photo #1/#2). Later, Franco changed the switch arrangement to three separate switches, each one controlling a different bulb.

Conrad Hubert began the American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company (Eveready) in 1898. In 1919, he left the company and bought the Interstate Electric Novelty Company, who made Franco flashlights, including the 3 in 1. The company name was changed to Yale after Hubert's death, and in 1928, the name was changed to Bond. The light was produced essentially unchanged under all three names, four names including Winchester; only the end cap is different, and no name appears on the flashlight body or head.

More Info »

The early 1918 Franco single 3 way switch that you see in photo #1 and #2 are rare, this flashlight preceded the 3 separate switch model, and because the switch could not light the bulbs independently, was probably dropped.

Some folks claim the Bond 3-in-1 was rolled over into Winchester. I have my doubts, as that would date these post 1937, and I think that a Winchester end cap is simply screwed onto an earlier light. Again, unless there was a lot of unsold stock left over after the sale of Bond to Winchester, and they switched end caps. But, if there is a legitimate Winchester, the Winchester guys will push the value up in good condition.

Finally, there is the USALite, with the 3 switches all at the same height. They might have bought the rights from Bond and changed the switch slightly. If so, then why would Winchester make the lights (see above). Or, it could be that to sell of the old Bond stock (under the Winchester name) USALite had to change the light slightly (redesigned switch) in order to continue manufacture. I suspect they redesigned slightly to get around the original Franco patent used by Yale, Bond (and maybe Winchester). The switch design would do it, but an identical head would have been patent infringement too.

 franco 3 in 1
(#1) 1918 Franco 3 in 1 w/single switch to control all three lights. Straight switch, 3 buttons and has 3 in 1 printed on end cap, with Pat App For. Has the original S shaped filament bulbs made for this light in the red and green bulbs.
franco 3 in 1
(#2) 1918-1919 Franco 3 in 1 single switch to control all three lights, with half moon switch. Has 4th button regular end cap.
franco 3 in 1
(#3) 1919-1921 Franco w/three separate switches.
Yale 3 in 1
(#4) 1922-28 Yale w/three separate switches
Bond 3 in 1
(#5) 1929 Bond 3 in 1 w/three separate switches
blake 3 in 1
(#6) 1927 Blaco 3 in 1 w/4th button
Pat. Date January 4, 1927
Other Patents Pending printed on the neck.
usa lite 3 in 1
(#7) 1928 USALite 3 in 1 w/3 buttons
Pat. Date 3-8-28 printed on neck.
Original bulbs with the S shaped filament.
winchester 3 in 1
(#8) 1938 Winchester 3 in 1 w/three separate switches
Original bulbs with the S shaped filament
blaco 3 in 1
This is the Blaco 3 in 1. If you have seen the others, you can see the difference.
 3 in 1
USALite, Bond and Blake. See the difference in the heads? Bond is round. The metal piece is also smaller around the neck. The Winchester would look the same as Bond.
3 in 1
The Blake is on the left and the USALite is on the right.

Bond - USALite


vintage flashlights
Need Help?

I would like to say... "Thank You" Steve, for all the help and information you have shared with me and the other collectors that stop by here! If you have questions on repairs, technical question on flashlights, lanterns, batteries or bulbs. He's your man. His email address in located on... the Flashlight Repairs page.

Worth Over Value

Now for the value/worth on the 3 in 1 flashlights. If you go by the prices from the Flashlight Museum website or Stuart Schneider's book, they are all about even in value. Around $45-$65. But of course, the Winchester will sell for more. I saw one on eBay sell for over $300. Some collectors will pay more!

Franco Switches

vintage flashlights

Franco 3 in 1 with two different switches. On the top, a straight style switch. The straight style switch has 3 buttons. Also has 3 in 1 printed on the end cap. Bottom switch is considered a half moon style, with 4 buttons.

More 3 in 1 Info

Needless to say, all these 3 in 1 flashlights, are getting confusing! So I sent Steve Giterman some pictures of the Blake 3 in 1 flashlight to find out what he had to say. Note; James L Shannon had a patent with no company assigned, of Springfield, MA. Blake, also of Springfield, MA had another patent date and a patent date was assigned to the French Battery Co. Franco already had a patent date before all the others.

"So here is the official what happened. James Shannon patented the 3 in 1 flashlight, which was made by Blake under his patent. You will recall that the French Battery and Carbon (later Ray O Vac) bought Blake, who made lights for them. Blake also made flashlights for just about everyone else.

He stole the idea from Mr Barnay (of Barnay and Berry fame, bought by Winchester) who earlier patented a similar design for Franco, who made their own, then Yale, then Bond and then Winchester.

So, there are two lines of essentially the same flashlight, the Blake line, who made this one and later, maybe made the same flashlight for USALite, and the Franco line as above.

Patent Numbers

Franco (1,448,354)

JL Shannon (1,613,203)

French Battery (1,888,936)

Blake (1,969,320)

Dates

The dates for the 3 in 1 flashlights can be just as confusing as the flashlights.

The Franco with the one switch for all buttons, 1918

The Franco with the separate switch for the buttons, 1919-1922

The Yale date, 1923-1928. Since Franco became Yale about that time

The Bond date, 1929. Since Yale became Bond about that time

The Winchester date, 1938 since that was in their catalog that year

Side Note on the Yale. In the Yale 1928 catalog, the 3 in 1 flashlight was listed as a Tri-Color 3 Bulb flashlight. Came with 3 clear bulbs or clear, red and green.