The USL Welder – U.S. Light and Heat Corporation

A reader named Dennis emailed and asked if I had any information about a Glen Roberts Welder, but unfortunately i didn’t. Ironically though, this lead me on a hunt for information about USL (United States Heat and Light) welders when he graciously sent me some scans of a brochure that he had on them. I’ll have to do some more research on the Glen Roberts welders, but in the mean time, here’s some information on USL welders.

If you’re a fan of old trains and railways, you may be familiar with the USL company based in Niagara Falls New York. They were originally manufacturers of storage batteries and electric lighting systems that were sold to railroad companies in the early part of the 20th century. It seems that they may have produced a fair amount of equipment for the rail industry, although evidence of their offerings though is slim.

From what I’ve been able to find out, they were around from at least the 1910’s to the late 1930’s They started out as United States Heat and Light Corporation, and then became a part of the Willys-Overland Company. From a New York Times article dated 1920 (pdf here) it’s noted that Willys Overland took a controlling interest in USL because they thought it was a good fit with their automotive lighting and power products company – The Electric Autolite Company.

Then in 1922, the Electric Auto-Lite Company was incorporated in Ohio, in order to purchase the assets of the original Electric Autolite Company from the Willys corporation. It remained a part of the Electric Auto-Lite Company until 1939, when it appears that it was either sold off or dissolved. Since there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of them later on, i’d guess they were dissolved. You can read about the history of the Electric Auto-Lite Company here. It’s interesting in its own right from a labor-management standpoint. It seems that the way they handled striking workers helped to empower unions of the day.

In May 1934 Electric Auto-Lite achieved some notoriety in a labor-management struggle that came to be known as the “Battle of Toledo.” The company refused negotiations with striking workers and hired strikebreakers in the spring of 1934. A group of local socialist-affiliated unemployed workers joined the strikers, setting up mass picket lines. On May 23 the sheriff arrested several picket leaders, prompting the “Battle of Toledo.” Ten thousand workers and their families blockaded the Auto-Lite factory, keeping the strikebreakers inside. Deputies used tear gas and water hoses to try to disperse the crowd, which rioted and set fire to the parking lot. The National Guard, dispatched to evacuate the strikebreakers, killed two protesters but failed to break the strike. Ultimately Auto-Lite closed the plant, agreed to recognize the union, rehired the strikers, and gave them a 5 percent wage hike. Almost simultaneous strikes in San Francisco and Minneapolis signaled a wave of labor militancy throughout the country.

Here’s a railway welder that was produced by the USL company in the ealy 1920’s mounted on a cart.

The machine above was rated for 200 amps and weighed 1530 pounds. It came in two different arrangements: An electrically powered version and a gas engine powered version.

I wasn’t able to find much else out about these welders since it appears the parent company wasn’t around for too long. Here are some scans of another USL welder that i’m going to guess is from the mid 1930’s. Thanks again to Dennis for sending them in.





The above welder was capable of 280 amps @ 20-30 volts. It had an O.C.V (open circuit voltage) of 50 volts. It says that’s it’s rated @ 150 amps, so I’m going to assume that’s at 100% duty cycle.

There are a few interesting things of note from the brochure. The first thing is that the name Owen Dyneto is on the welder. The Owen Dyneto Company, a subsidiary of the Auto-Lite company, was best known for manufacturing windshield wiper motors, generators, and alternators for many different automobiles. Probably the most famous of which was the Ford model A. Some of the others included the Pierce Arrow and the Packard.

The brochure states that they produced their own welding rods. I couldn’t find anything related to their welding rods, so it’s unclear whether that portion of the company was also dissolved, or whether it got sold out to some other manufacturer.

If you have anymore information about the company, or these welders, i’d love to hear it.

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One Response to The USL Welder – U.S. Light and Heat Corporation

  1. giacamo says:

    love the usl welder,pik,,,,,,,,,,,,,only sean one in a scrap pile wen i lived in colorado,,,,,,,,,,,,

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