Mining a rich history into new markets

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The Wolf Safety Lamp Company can trace its history back to the 1880s, when German toolmaker and inventor Karl Wolf and entrepreneur Heinrich Friemann set up a business in Leeds to sell their revolutionary development of the traditional miners safety lamp.

Wolf’s miners lamp had a glass shield, could be relit if it blew out underground, was fuelled by spirit instead of oil and rapidly outsold the rival Davy Lamp.

Two years before the First World War, Friemann and Wolf’s Leeds company hit financial troubles, closed and was acquired by William Maurice, who had worked as a mining engineer in South Africa before returning to England and becoming general manager of the Hucklow group of collieries.

Maurice started making Friemann and Wolf products under licence in Sheffield.

Wolf faced tough times when the National Coal Board decided to use cap lamps powered by lead acid batteries instead of Wolf’s nickel alkali powered lamps, but struggled on thanks to William Maurice’s eldest daughter, Monica, who was running the business by then.

Miss Maurice – as she continued to be known at the firm after her marriage – took Wolf into new markets, including industrial safety lighting and safety handlamps.

Sales of Wolf’s compressed air-powered industrial Airturbo lamps took off after Shell began using them.

Both they and Wolf’s hi-tech, high powered and long life battery-powered lights are now used in sectors ranging from the offshore oil and gas, petrochemicals and marine industries to tunneling, by utilities companies and by the emergency services. Wolf continued to make the traditional miners safety lamps until 20 years ago, supplying companies that included BT, which used them to test for lack of oxygen in cable ducts.

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