Carlisle & Finch Co.

About Us

We’ve been keeping the maritime and security industries safe and secure by producing innovative and reliable lighting-based products since 1894.

Our History

Founded in 1894 by Robert S. Finch and Morten Carlisle, The Carlisle & Finch Co. has a history of being the “first” time and time again. C&F manufactured the world’s first electric toy train in 1896, but the firsts didn’t stop there. In the early 1900s, C&F would go on to pioneer the use of German carbon rods to revolutionize the searchlight industry.

During WW I, when materials were only available for the war effort, C&F became a trusted supplier of marine lighting to the U.S. government and many other foreign countries.  After the war, C&F focused on marine lighting as its core products, but also explored a range of new products and inventions, like electric fans, radio headphones, electric clothes dryers, and other household items.

More recently, the company continued their track record of innovation when they pioneered the development of high-intensity arc searchlights. Over our long history, C&F has become the world leader for the highest-quality and brightest searchlights.

The present-day C&F is captained by Garth and Kurt Finch—both great, grandchildren of Robert S. Finch. Together, the Finch brothers continue to steer the company in the direction of innovation, quality, and excellence. C&F searchlights are found on almost every U.S. military watercraft, on most commercial ships and private yachts, and are used in land security operations around the world.

photo of Carlisle and Finch's first searchlight order

How it all started

Carlisle & Finch Co. was founded in 1893 by Robert S. Finch and Morten Carlisle in Cincinnati, Ohio. The business started as the repair shop for the Cincinnati branch of General Electric Co. In 1894, the owners decided to branch out and created the world’s first electric toy line. And in 1895, C&F designed the first open arc searchlight.

Carlisle and Finch Co. black and white photograph of car and train on searchlight advertisement from 1911 - 1921

The Next Phase

Full into production of searchlights and electric toy trains by this time, C&F also added motors to our product offerings. We began producing two-stroke engines and farming equipment.

Carlisle and Finch Co. black and white photograph of factory and diagrams 1922 - 1932

Roaring into the Twenties

As we moved into the 1920s, C&F began making dynamo generators. We were still at our location on Clifton Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio, where we employed 120 people. We also produced two-stroke, four-cylinder, and six-stroke cylinder engines at this time.

Carlisle and Finch Co. black and white photograph of employees and military and Nava; Searchlight Projector guide from 1933 - 1943

C&F Joins the Cause

When the United States joined World War II, so did Carlisle and Finch. The government asked us to start producing searchlights to aid in the war effort, and C&F responded to the call with gusto. Here you can see our employees hard at work producing searchlights.

Carlisle and Finch Co. black and white photograph of searchlights from 1944 - 1954

Making Moves

After World War II ended, C&F focused on marine lighting as its core product, but we also explored a range of new products and inventions like electric fans, radio headphones, electric clothing dryers, and other household items.

Carlisle and Finch Co. black and white photographs and diagrams of searchlights and employees from 1955 - 1965

A Family Affair

As the business grew, so did the Finch family. Morten Carlisle had sold his share of the business in 1926, after which the Finch family took sole ownership. During the 1950s, there were three generations of Finches working at C&F—Robert Finch (co-founder), his son Brent, and his grandson, Brent R.

Carlisle and Finch Co. black and white photograph and color photograph showing searchlight from 1966 - 1976

New Horizons

During this time period, C&F became the leading experts in searchlights. We began creating searchlights that were not only smaller but they also more powerful. In 1976, we branched out our searchlight offerings and launched our yacht division.

Carlisle and Finch Co. photographs and searchlight images and model train from 1977 - 1987

The Next Generation

During the 1970s, the fourth generation of Finches began working at the company. Garth and Kurt Finch, the great, great grandchildren of Robert S. Finch, joined the C&F team. By now, C&F was the number one searchlight company in the world.

Carlisle and Finch Co. photographs and searchlight images from 1988 - 1998

Fresh Ideas

At this point, Garth and Kurt Finch started to play a greater role in running the company. With their leadership came a lot of new ideas and new products, including the beam dancer.

Carlisle and Finch Co. photographs and searchlight images from 1999 - 2009

Growth Spurt

As the 21st century rolled around, C&F was growing faster than ever. To keep up with the growth, the company expanded into a second production facility.

Carlisle and Finch Co. photographs and searchlight images from 2010 - 2019

Recent Events

This last decade was filled with highs and lows. We said goodbye to one of the pioneers. Kurt and Garth’s father, Brent R. Finch, passed away. In memoriam, we named our new tug-boat inspired building after him. The 13,000-square-foot building includes a new engineering department, electronic, assembly area, product development lab, and our offices.

The C&F Difference

We are inventors and craftspeople at heart. C&F has a long tradition of combining leading-edge electrical and mechanical engineering with world-class manufacturing. We continuously improve our family of products and invent new ones for new markets and applications.

The innovative spirit is at our core. We look forward to helping our customers with their most demanding challenges. As the world becomes more interconnected and new technologies are being created and evolving every day, we are committed to staying ahead of the game. We are confident that C&F will continue to “light the way forward” for many generations.

Customer Experience Center

The Carlisle & Finch Company has had a long and rich history, from manufacturing the first electric toy train sets in the 1890s to being a global leader in the searchlight industry today. To celebrate its 125th anniversary, we designed a customer experience center (CXC) that informs visitors and employees of our history, products, capabilities, and enduring spirit.

We divided the room into three sections and used a quintessential C&F spotlight as a centerpiece. The spotlight is exemplary of the innovative engineering and manufacturing excellence that has been the DNA of everything C&F has produced over the years. The Past, Present, and Future exhibits tell the complete C&F story using artifacts, large-scale visuals, video presentations, and graphics.

News, Press Releases, and Resources

Stay up to date on all the latest product updates, industry news, and technology developments.

Plant Shutdown


We will be closed for our Annual 2-Week Vacation from 29-July to 13-August. No orders will be manufactured or shipped during this time. We reopen 14-August-23.