Centuries of Innovation

For more than a century, The Kirlin Company’s mission has been to lead the lighting industry by designing and manufacturing superior quality, high performance and innovative luminaires. Below is a capsule of its history, including many of the best-known innovations it has produced for the lighting industry.



In 1895, Otis M. Kirlin, an electrical pioneer, founded The Kirlin Company in St. Paul, Minnesota. It started as a manufacturer of electric power plants and associated lighting products, including decorative porcelain sockets designed for the carbon arc lamp and the incandescent lamp.

1st Generation: Otis M. Kirlin



Kirlin’s decorative lighting greatly increased residential and institutional demand for electric power, which required long hours of service by The Kirlin Company. Ivan M. Kirlin, son of Otis Kirlin, is shown here in the back left with the line gang on a Saturday.



Hand-crafted artistic chandeliers , using glass and metals from Kirlin's own brass, bronze and glass foundries evolved from the production of decorative porcelain sockets. The Kirlin Company relocated to Detroit, Michigan to take advantage of the area’s technology, manufacturing expertise and skilled labor. At that time, the average cost per chandelier was twice the cost of a Cadillac automobile!



Innovation diversified as Ivan Kirlin developed glass lens technologies in Detroit, resulting in the creation of the world's first glass block and three-color lens traffic signal.



The Kirlin Company turned its focus to highly tooled, high volume lighting fixture production, incorporating a patented recessed fixture design with attached J-box. The 1208 incandescent line as well as the mercury and fluorescent product lines were developed.

2nd Generation: Ivan Kirlin



World War II redirected Kirlin's work to support the U.S. government's requirement for products, such as engine parts for the P-51 Mustang fighter planes. Otis Kirlin, still actively working and inventing for the company, patented the first cruise control system for automobiles,among a host of other patents



The post-war construction boom helped fuel Kirlin's growth in every lighting market. A nationwide network of distributors was established. The "flare" series was introduced. Kirlin's reputation for quality, innovation and "In By 9:00 - Out By 5:00" timeliness (producing 1400 fixtures per day) was firmly established.



John A. Kirlin assumed leadership of Kirlin, initiating the development of many Kirlin hallmarks, including the WhisperPack™ encapsulated, cool and quiet HID ballast. In addition, Kirlin's metal halide luminaires made their debut and Kirlin squares were augmented by a full line of "circulars".

3rd Generation: John A. Kirlin



The Kirlin Company began creating specialized lighting designs for hospitals and penitentiaries. Sophisticated motorized patient examination lighting products were developed, thanks to valuable input from world renowned heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey of the Baylor College of Medicine. Also, maximum security lighting products made from super tough extruded aluminum housings were introduced. These designs out-foxed even the most cunning inmates.

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Rapid introduction of new source technologies resulted in the development of hundreds of new luminaires. Kirlin was the first to introduce a full line of compact metal halide dual reflector luminaires designed for low wattage E-17 and double-ended lamps. Kirlin also offered the industry's most complete compact fluorescent catalog, featuring the first quad lamp luminaires with high power factor ballast systems.



As Kirlin celebrated its Centennial, innovation and new product development proliferated. The result was a premier product mix designed to fulfill discerning lighting specifiers' objectives for commercial and institutional lighting. With the patenting of INFRALITE®, or Infrared Remote Controlled Directional Recessed Patient Lighting, Kirlin formed a second operating division, Medical Lighting, and created a dedicated sales force for the market. Coinciding with the New Millennium Tungsten Halogen and Incandescent catalog launch, Kirlin opened its Reflection Point Lighting Showroom, Education & Technology Center in Detroit. Jana Kirlin Brownell succeeded her father as President / CEO.

4th Generation: Jana Brownell



Kirlin began its third century of innovation by developing luminaires centered around two new lighting sources: high output LEDS and Induction. Incorporating these long-life sources with Kirlin's sophisticated optical designs, diverse photometric performance with exceptional energy efficiency is achieved.



Kirlin continues to lead the industry with advancements in state of the art LED luminaires and turn-key LED lighting systems for commercial and healthcare applications. Award-winning SmartLED™ lighting systems for MRI suites, Symphony™ DMX lighting systems for auditoriums and patient exam / procedure lighting for all medical applications demonstrate Kirlin's passion for innovation which exudes Kirlin quality.