Charles F. Burgess worked as a professor, chemical engineer, and inventor.
He was born in Oshkosh, WI on January 5th, 1873 .
was initiated into the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1891 and
graduated from the University 1895. He then taught chemical engineering
at the University from 1895-1913. In 1905 he became full professor of
Applied Electrochemistry and formed the Chemical Engineering department.
Burgess' involvement with batteries goes back to October 1907 when he
was hired as a consultant at the French Battery Company (predecessor of
Rayovac). He was put in charge of improving their No. 6 cell batteries.
this time, the Number 6 cell,(so named for its 6 inch heighth ), was
the primary battery available for public use in telephones, telegraphs,
toys, doorbells and other electrical devices.
six months of Dr. Burgess' involvement, the French Battery Company
products went from very unreliable to, in Burgess' words, "...the best
batteries in the country."
1908 Dr. Burgess started work, independently, on two new battery sizes
for portable lighting; the Number 1 size (standardized as the "C" cell)
and the Number 2 size (the future "D" cell). He formed the zinc cans
over the end of a broom handle (#1 cell ) and over the end a shovel
handle (#2 cell ).
Burgess formed Northern Chemical Engineering Labs as a supplement to
his work at the University . The labs started operations in June 1910
at 625 Williamson Street in Madison, Wi and officially incorporated in December of 1910 .
September 16, 1910, Burgess sold his first flashlights and batteries to
the Madison Gas and Electric Company under the trade name "Northern
to increased demands of the Labs, Dr. Burgess resigned from University
of Wisconsin July 1, 1913 to devote more time to his new enterprise.
"Labs" were involved in many electrochemical enterprises. One of the
first of the "Labs" projects outside of the battery business was the
patenting, manufacturing, and sales of "silver cleaning pans" used to
electrochemically remove tarnish from silverware at hotels and
March 2, 1915, Dr. Burgess simplified the Northern Chemical Engineering
Laboratories name to simply "C. F. Burgess Laboratories" which became
the parent firm for various enterprises including the Burgess Battery Company.
Due to increasingly strained relations, Burgess severed all relations with the French Battery Company on February 20, 1916.
Dr Burgess formed the
Burgess Battery Company as the manufacturing and sales arm of the
Burgess Laboratories . The new company became incorporated in Madison,
WI on March 1, 1917.
WWI, Burgess worked with the fledgling United States Signal Corps to
develop quality batteries for Air to Ground radio communication and
Ground to Ground radio communication to be used by the Allied troops in
France . During this time, the Radio "A" Battery and Radio "B" Battery
types were developed.
The time after WWI and on into the roaring 20's was a boom time for Burgess and the Radio/Battery industry in general.
1925, high Wisconsin corporate taxes sent Burgess looking for a new,
out of state, location for the manufacturing plant. Several Freeport,
IL business leaders encouraged Burgess to move to their growing city.
December 15, 1925 Burgess purchased a large manufacturing plant from
the Moline Plow Company, (Once the manufacturing home of the Stephens automobile ), on Freeports , "Manufacturer's Island."
began production at this plant on July 1,1926 with 125 employees .
Eventually Burgess Enterprises grew to be among the largest of their
kind in the nation.
The year 1931 saw the depression hit
Burgess Battery. The company at one point was losing $1,000/day. To
help curb these losses, Burgess Battery moved the last remaining
operations from Madison, WI into the Freeport, IL facility .