The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.
Othe M. Otte was issued Patent No. 1,309,445 on July 8, 1919. This was a patent for an automobile-lamp. It included a screen or a type of diffuser than covered half of the automobile lamp or today's headlight. In the collection of the Fenton History Center is a pair of similar screens. The idea was that the lamp would reflect from the parabolic reflector in the automobile lamp and the screen would then redirect some of the light.
A pair of screens or diffusers used with an automobile lamp/headlight probably in the 1920s. The logo claims that the company was in Jamestown.
The interesting part for Jamestown history is what is imprinted on the logos attached to the screens. It says "The Omolite Co. Inc., Patented, RAYDEX, Jamestown, N.Y." Seeing that company name associated with Jamestown set off the search for more information. The city directories did not include either the Omolite Co. or Raydex. The box that the screens had been stored in had the handwriting "Otte Auto Beams." Searching the Internet for Omolite and Raydex produced little relevant information. A search of patents for Raydex or Otte as a name did produce patents by Otho M. Otte for automobile lamps and other lighting patents and some were assigned to Raydex Manufacturing Company of Brackenridge, Pa.
Some of the patents were awarded in the 1910s to Otho M. Otte, who stated that he was then a resident of Jamestown. The city directories include him and his wife, Susan, from 1913-16. The next city directory is 1920 and they are no longer in Jamestown. Brackenridge, Pa., is a little east of Pittsburgh and next to Tarentum, another place Otho was a resident according to later patents. Searching his name on the Internet produced the fact that he was an illuminating engineer and had attended Carnegie in Pittsburgh. Using his initials we can assume that he had a small company of some kind that was called the OMOLITE Company at some time, maybe only to manufacture these screens.
Another Jamestown company came to light with this search. Otho M. Otte is listed in the city directory as the treasurer-manager of the Interior Metal Manufacturing Co. making metal furniture at 65-85 River St. in Jamestown. Fred Hatch was the president and Charles O. Anderson was the vice president of that company. It was not listed very long in the directories. Thus another search for a future Hometown History article. These automobile lamp screens are only a very small part of the manufacturing in Jamestown that was related to the automobile industry as it developed in the early 1900s. Parts for Pierce Arrows were made by Dahlstroms and Blackstone made radiators and other car parts at one time along with the washing machines.
Jamestown also had two entries into the early automobile manufacturing. More about these and the industry can be heard on Wednesday at noon at the Fenton's Brown Bag Lecture series. Automobile historian Art Osterdahl will share his local automobile history research. The talk is at the Fenton History Center, 67 Washington St., Jamestown.
The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County's history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.
Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.
If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St. just south of the Washington Street Bridge.