In 1904, partners Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, and P. C. Avery formed the Concentrated Acetylene Company to assemble and fill acetylene cylinders then used to power automobile headlights. When Avery, the inventor of the system, withdrew from the company in 1906, Fisher and Allison changed the name to Prest-O-Lite Company.

Prest-O-Lite Company, Inc., factory, n.d.
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Compressing the acetylene in the tanks often caused explosions in the two early factories at 28th and Pennsylvania Streets and 229 E. South Street. After a major explosion at the South Street factory in 1908 and the subsequent passage of an ordinance prohibiting the manufacture of explosives within city limits, a new factory was built near 16th Street in Speedway in 1912.

Prest-O-Lite entered the storage battery field in 1914 with the purchase of the Pumpelly Battery Company. It also became a recognized leader in the acetylene field with a nationwide system of charging plants and international distribution.

Prest-O-Lite Biplane and Auto, 1932
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society

In 1917, Fisher and Allison sold the company to Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation. The Prest-O-Lite unit continued distributing automotive batteries from the Speedway plant until 1927 when the battery interest of Union Carbide and the name Prest-O-Lite were sold to a subsidiary of Electric Auto-Lite Company of Toledo. 

Electric Auto-Lite continued making batteries in part of the Speedway factory until 1947 when the Indianapolis plant closed. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, Electric Auto-Lite has gone on to become the international organization known as Prestolite Electric, with manufacturing and distribution locations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, China, and Hong Kong.

Revised March 2021
 

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