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Elmer Sperry: Electric Searchlight, 1920

Mission Accomplished

In 1916 Sperry began marketing his high-intensity searchlight. In competitive tests held by the Army Coast Artillery Board, Sperry's searchlight was found to be superior in twelve of the thirteen tests. These tests measured light intensity, target illustration, simplicity of operation, and reliability. Only in carbon consumption were the Beck and Sperry searchlights scored equally. On the recommendation of the Army Coast Artillery Board, the army awarded the Sperry Company a contract for converting coast-defense searchlights to the Sperry system. The company triumphantly took on this task, which kept its employees busy for over a year.

While Sperry was successful in his dealings with the U.S. Army, consideration of the case being built for his high intensity searchlight was tabled and ultimately thrown out by the Franklin Institute. Work on the case was laid aside due to controversy over patents, and litigations brought against Sperry Company by General Electric, the owner of Beck's patent. Due to the persistence of this disruption, case #2710, "Sperry High Intensity Searchlight," was abandoned by the Committee on Science and the Arts in April of 1920. Letters dating back to 1921 indicate that the file was opened again at this time, but no further documentation attesting to the ultimate fate of the case has remained on file. The opinion of the Committee on Science and the Arts on the originality and effectiveness of the Sperry high intensity searchlight thus remains a mystery.

The images on this page link to the text of the report compiled by the Committee on Science and the Arts on Sperry's Searchlight in March, 1918.

CSA Report
Page 1 (244K)

CSA Report
Page 2 (316K)

CSA Report
Page 3 (277K)

CSA Report
Page 4 (274K)

CSA Report
Page 5 (284K)

CSA Report
Page 6 (305K)

CSA Report
Page 7 (293K)

CSA Report
Page 8 (113K)



This is the Sperry High Intensity Searchlight application status sheet. Notice in the bottom left corner that the status of the application is reported as "Tabled, April, 1920." Status
Status (173K)