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The business was started July 1, 1893 by Robert S. Finch and Morten Carlisle. Both were about age 21 and had technical college degrees. The business initially was a repair shop, a Cincinnati Branch Office of the General Electric Co. This office operated as a repair shop to take care of G.E. armatures, transformers, and arc lamps of their own make. R.S. worked in the lighting department and M.C. in the street railway department.
During July 1, 1894 the repair shop moved to a larger building in downtown Cincinnati and before the second year had passed it became evident to the owners that to continue in business they would have to manufacture a product.
That product became the world’s first toy electric train line. Mechanical wind-up toy trains that ran on tracks were in existence, but not trains run by electric current. This idea was developed to a considerable extent and soon all sorts of toy train engines and cars were in production. All operated on 2-inch gauge tracks and all were made from metal and designed to high detail with bright and colorful stenciling.
During the height of the electric toy train business the company employed a high of around 120 employees. Besides toy trains, many other electric novelties were made and sold such as automobiles, boats, incline planes, experimental electricity and magnetic science sets, and others, as well as water driven dynamos to power the toys.
The firm was incorporated on April 17, 1897 and again moved to a new location.
It was in this new location, along with the toy train line, that a line of marine and industrial gasoline engines were manufactured, Clifton Marine Engines and engine ignitors.
The first open arc searchlight was designed, made and sold by the Company, circa July 1, 1895, a year or two after R.S. and M.C. were in business. Documented as historical fact is the following statement, “the open arc searchlight was started early in the history of The Carlisle & Finch Co., and we are confident that we were the first people to use a horizontal arc for a marine searchlight.”
At the beginning of World War I the Company could only obtain materials for the war effort, i.e., marine lighting, in particular searchlights………many contracts were received from the U.S. Government as well as large orders from foreign countries such as Greece, Spain, Norway, Russia, and others.
It was about this time that the Company did not return to the manufacture of toy trains nor marine engines.
Morten Carlisle sold his entire interest in the Company to Robert Finch August 3, 1926.
Robert Finch’s son, Brent S. Finch, was made President of the Company and as the history is noted “the business, feeling the effect of new young blood, began to expand immediately” and became entirely devoted to outdoor marine lighting.
At the end of WWII, Brent S. Finch’s son, Brent R. Finch became employed and it was at that time three (3) generations of Finches worked at the Company.
More business expansion ensued.
Shortly thereafter, in 1950, the company again relocated to a new location……..4562 West Mitchell Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio where there was land to build a new factory. “The new factory is located in the heart of the truck hauling industry; it combines nearness to the heart of Cincinnati, with a country air, and is well above any high water stage of the Ohio River.
Over 126 Years of Searchlight Expertise…
Since that time in 1895, The Carlisle & Finch Company has become the world leader for the highest quality and brightest searchlights made. The Company enhanced its reputation as the industry leader when it pioneered the development of high intensity xenon arc searchlights.
Today, the Company is being run by the fourth Generation team of 2-brothers, Kurtis B. Finch – President, and Garth S. Finch – Senior Vice President. This owner/management team is continuing to lead the Company to remain the standard for our US Navy and Coast Guard (including aid to navigation coastal lighting), the national and international commercial marine industries, as well as the world’s most prestigious yacht builders.
The Carlisle & Finch Company, an ISO 9001:2015 with Design company, today manufactures an extensive line of marine searchlights intended for heavy duty ship board use and land based security applications……..an extensive line of searchlights using halogen and xenon short arc as light sources, as well as an emerging line of LED searchlight products. Specialty and custom searchlights compliment the product line, for unique applications requiring all sorts of embedded cameras, from low light to thermal imaging and much more. Total manufacturing square footage is approximately 35,000 and filled with all sorts of manufacturing equipment, machinery, etc. from CNC machining centers to automated Powder Coating along with many skilled craftsmen for operation.
Carlisle & Finch headquarters today.
In 2016, the 13,000 sq. ft. expansion and renovation was completed to Carlisle & Finch general offices, of which included a new engineering office, electronic assembly area and product development lab. This unique office building, named the M/V Brent R. Finch (after Kurt and Garth’s father) is a one of a kind architectural design with the exterior honoring the commercial towing and workboat industry with a shipbuilder’s interior detail signifying our relationship with elegant and custom built yachts the world over. Upon a visit one can see the history of the past and history in the making………..the rooftop is an observation deck as any commercial marine vessel has and will serve us as a demonstration site for the company’s technologically advanced and ever improving product line, including searchlights to be controlled by “The Internet of Things” and LED searchlights of all sorts, shapes and sizes.