The AGA Saga

from; van Dok, Utrecht



Lichting of Panama canal

9 september 1912

The AGA Saga

AGA started in the business as early as 1904, with

a small filling station for acetylene and a repair shop in the

vicinity of Stockholm, Sweden. The founder of the

company was a 35-year-old engineer, Gustaf Dalèn. He

was an ingenious inventor, and soon the business was

expanded and he started to manufacture railway lights and

acetylene production machinery.

The real breakthrough for the company came with an

automatic lighthouse mechanism. It included the sun valve

and the intermittent light regulator, invented in 1905, and

were the first innovations patented by AGA.

Lighthouses were few and very primitive at the time.

Ships were often stranded on rocky shores, and if ships

were guided along these shores it was often only by fires.

Sometimes wreckers lit other fires and purposely misled

ships. A major problem was how to transport wood or other

fuel to the remote locations where the lights were needed.

Acetylene, with its bright light, proved to be an excellent

fuel for lighthouses, but it was too expensive when burned

24 hours a day. The introduction of the AGA intermittent

light regulator reduced fuel consumption by 90 percent and

the sun valve cut fuel consumption by another four precent.

Lighthouses could now be operated at a low cost and left

unattended for long periods. The sun valve lit them

automatically at dusk and turned them off at dawn.

AGA lighthouses built in those days are still in

Railway lights were

among the first products

manufactured by AGA

founder Gustaf Dalen.

operation all over the world, many of them on the Great

Lakes. In June 1925 the group`s English language customer

magazine, AGA Journal, published several pictures of AGA

lichthouses on the Great Lakes, submitted by the United

States Lighthouse Board. The magazine reported that "The

traffic on these lakes is enormous, although navigation is

possible for little more than six months of the year. During

the winter, the connecting straits and vast extents of the lakes

are frozen so hard that they defy every effort to make

channels by means of ice-breakers. Nor is navigation during

the open-water season without its difficulties and drangers.

On many occasions, these great areas op open water are

frequently disturbed by sudden storms of considerable

violence. Fogs are frequent too in these tracts, especially in 

the spring and autumn. Canada and the United States have

therefore, found it necessary to adopt common measures to

Many of AGA`s

lighthouses built in the

early 1900`s, such as this

one on the Great Lakes, are

still in operation today.

ensure the safety og navigation by means of effective

lighting. There exist at presents no less than about 690 lights

within the United States section of these waters".

In 1912 AGA won the contract to build a lighthouse

system for the Panama Canal and Gustaf Dalen was awarded

the Nobel Prize in physics for his inventions in lighthouse

technology. It was a year of triumph, but also of personal

tragedy for Gustaf Dalen. He was badly injured in a gas

explosioin while conducting an experiment to develop safer

gas cylinders. He was permanently blinding, but continued to

lead his company for 25 years until he died in 1937

AGA`s American saga started in 1911, when American

Gas Accumulator Co. was founded in New J  

AGA signal equipment, sold through-

out the United States, included this eurly

version of the automobile traffec light.

Accumulator Co. had seven acetylene plants in the United

States in the 1930s.

In addition, the compagny sold all kinds of lighthouse

and signal equipment. AGA Journal reported in June 1925

about AGA air beacons in the United States: Ön the trans-

continental airline between New York and San Francisco

the mail-carrying aeroplanes perform the journey Chicago-

Cheyenne by night. For the guidance of the airmen there

have been erected along the whole of this route a number of

rapid flashing AGA beacons at a distance of three English

miles from one another, so that under normal circumstances

the air-route is clearly marked out in front of the airman,

since he must always have at least two beacons within sighr".

New Dalen inventions were added to the product line,

and in its first 50 years the AGA group manufactured such

varied products as cookers, cars, film projectors, geological

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