Stories of inventors and their inventions: Conrad Hubert
Mar 03, 2021
This article was written by the IP & I Team of EIT InnoEnergy
We all read stories about the innovators of today and how their products or services make a difference. In this series of publications, we shed light on a side that often remains in the dark and unknown to the public: their patented inventions and the impact they have had on other innovators across society. We did the research and summarised our findings.
Although it was David Misell, who was the inventor of an ‘electric device’ that resembles the flashlight of today, and Joshua. L. Cowen who was the first owner of the ‘American Ever Ready Battery Company’, it was Conrad Hubert who, on buying patents from Misell and other inventors, and the company from Cowen, went on to create the multi-million dollar Ever Ready company, today known as Energizer Holdings Inc.
Born in 1856 in Minsk, Russia, as ‘Akiba Horowitz’, Hubert began working at the early age of thirteen, when he went to Berlin to study liquor distillation. Due to the Russian persecution of Jews, he moved to the United States at the age of 35 and changed his birth name to ‘Conrad Hubert’. In the eight years that followed, he tried his hand at various businesses including a cigar store, a restaurant, a boarding house, a jewellery store, farming, and a novelty shop. It was the novelty shop that grew to be successful and this in turn piqued his interest in electrical devices for lighting. He worked on and even got a patent for a version of an electric gas lighter.
When Joshua. L. Cowen, an American inventor, decided to focus on being a full-time inventor, Hubert was able to buy the ‘American Ever Ready Battery Company’ and Cowen’s patents on light-up flowerpots and tie-tacks. He continued to develop on these patents and also went on to obtain patents for an electric time alarm, electric battery, and small electric lamp.
With the help of an employee named David Misell, Hubert adapted Cowen's idea, to create the first flashlight in 1898. This first version of the flashlight got its name from the ‘flash of light’ that it was able to produce because it utilised 'D' batteries that did not last very long. The batteries were laid front to back, in a paper tube, with the light bulb and a rough brass reflector at the end. But Hubert continued to develop it and with his clear vision and patenting strategy, came to own over 100 patents on this and related topics. This led to the creation of the ‘Ever Ready’ battery company.
The company was widely successful and about ten years later, Hubert sold it to the National Carbon Company and the name was shortened to ‘Eveready’. Hubert went on to buy a controlling share in the Yale Electric Corporation, manufacturing batteries for automobiles and later for radios and was also a director of Pyrene Manufacturing Company and of Fordbrad Realty. Upon his death in 1928, his estate was divided among thirty-three American institutions devoted to charitable, religious, medical, and educational needs.
The success of Conrad Hubert, a businessman, is a good example of how buying high potential patents and combining them with an effective business model can lead, not only to impressive monetary gains but also significant contributions to the development of technology. It was thanks to his entrepreneurial spirit that we were able to witness the linked history of electrical lighting and batteries and continue to benefit from it to this day.
The authors of the publications have used publicly available information only and no private information was handed to them by the innovators or third parties.
The IP & I team at EIT InnoEnergy specialises in combining public sources and state of the art research tools, to provide our innovative member companies with business intelligence. In this case the following sources were used: