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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Presentation & Unveiling of Historical Marker

Members of the Cameron County Historical Center will host an event to commemorate the unveiling of a Historical Marker honoring the Sylvania Corporation which is being placed along West Fourth Street in front of the former Sylvania Club. The presentation will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 29 at the Emporium Fire Hall, to be followed by the unveiling of the plaque at the Northern Tier Community Action Corporation (NTCAC) building.

The Historical Marker will honor the Sylvania Corporation and its many contributions to Emporium, Cameron County, and the United States throughout its decades-long history in the community.

Historical Society Vice President Susan Hoy will cover the history of Sylvania and the people who ran the company and patented many of its products and processes. The contributions of the company and community residents to efforts during World War II will also be highlighted.

Also scheduled to present is a representative of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), Andrea MacDonald, who currently serves as director of the agency’s Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO).

MacDonald is a native of Erie who has a personal connection to the Sylvania corporation, as her mother had a long career as a Sylvania sales representative in Erie. MacDonald earned her master’s degree in historic preservation from Ball State University and her bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Michigan State University.

The presentation will cover the history of the Sylvania Corporation, from its beginning as the Novelty Incandescent Company in 1906 in St. Marys, through its former headquarters present-day use by the Caldwell Corporation.

On several occasions, operations were relocated from Emporium to St. Marys. During the most notable of these occurrences, research and development efforts, which were kept secret from majority stakeholders, continued in Emporium and resulted in the invention of a new product, a radio tube, which would completely change the direction of the company, and the community.

The presentation will also touch on some of the people who spearheaded the company’s efforts throughout history, including Josiah Howard, Henry Auchu, Robert Kaye, Guy Felt, George Rishell, and Bernard Erskine.

The company would eventually purchase Hygrade Incandescent Lamp Company, becoming the Hygrade Sylvania Corporation, becoming a leader in the radio industry.

Efforts to back the United States government during the second World War are likely the most notable of the company’s achievements. Technologies developed by members of the Emporium community would go on to revolutionize war communications and artillery, and likely helped the allies win the war.

Emporium’s nickname of Girls Town, USA, and the invention of proximity fuses and Lock-In radio tubes will also be discussed during the approximately one-hour long presentation.

From the location of the new Historical Marker, Sylvania’s Emporium factory can be seen. The building was constructed in 1929, and is located behind the NTCAC building, across the Rails-to-Trails.

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the Cameron County Historical Society, and a number of events are planned to celebrate. At the Cameron County Chamber of Commerce and Artisan Center in Emporium, a rotating display highlighting different aspects of the community’s history is available for view, along with additional information on upcoming events and contests.

The presentation will be held at the Emporium Volunteer Fire Department beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 29, with dedication of the Historical Marker to follow. The marker will be placed along Fourth Street in front of the former Sylvania Club (current NTCAC building).

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