The International Flare-Signal Division of the Kilgore Manufacturing Co., located in Tipp City during World War II received the “E” Award in 1942, given by the Army and Navy for excellence in producing war equipment. At the lavish ceremony, Governor John W. Bricker delivered the welcome address. The speaker’s platform also included local, county and state officials along with high ranking officers of the Arm, Navy, and Coast Guards.
“There is nothing more distinctive than the ‘E’ award for war workers. Today is a great day in this community and in this state,” said Gov. Bricker in his address, as he mentioned that few of Ohio’s 1,300 war industries have won the distinctive award. International Flare-Signal was the first industry in Miami County to receive the ‘E’ award.
The American Legion Hall was once the office building for the International Flare and Signal Company, developer of the first electronically-controlled airplane flare, the Driggs-Faber System. Developed at the beginning of World War II, the Driggs-Faber system provided a longer period of illumination than was possible with the previous pistol-type flares. The system was designed to address the need of the larger aircraft being produced for the war, which required more time to make a safe landing in an emergency. Mounted on the side of an airplane, the flare was electronically controlled by a switch in the cockpit. Upon release, the flare floated to earth suspended from a parachute to slow its descent, lighting up the ground for one, one and half, or three minutes depending on its size. The Driggs-Faber System was used by American and British airplanes during World War II.
International Flare manufactured several other products used in World War II, including cartridges for starting the engines of airplanes on United States aircraft carriers. Among the company’s experimental work towards the end of the war was development of a pressed powder rocket candle, forerunner of today’s space rockets.
International Flare dates back to 1921 when the Tipp Fireworks Company was formed by J.A. Scheip, J.R. Scheip, and Carl Moser. Moser, who bought out the Scheips in 1927, was known throughout the U.S as a designer of major fireworks displays. He boasted that no one was ever killed at one of his exhibitions because he exercised every precaution and carried $100,000 worth of insurance.
Several years after Moser acquired the company, Tipp Fireworks merged with the Kilgore Manufacturing Co. of Westerville, OH. Renamed the International Flare and Signal Company, the business continued as a subsidiary of Kilgore until the late 1940’s when the operation was moved to Westerville. A second Kilgore subsidiary, the Pullmatch Company, also was located in Tipp City during the 1940’s.
To accommodate its expanded business during World War II, International Flare erected over 300 small buildings, the larges 20 x 40 feet, in a field east of the railroad tracks behind its office building on Third Street. (The use of many small buildings, rather than one larger one, was a safety measure to minimize the risk of a fire or explosion in one area spreading to the rest of the operation.) After the war, the buildings were acquired by a lumber company, which sold them to individuals for housing, farm buildings and other uses. Remnants of some of the original foundations still remain, hidden in the undergrowth in the field between North Fifth Street and the railroad tracks on both sides of Park Street.
The ‘E’ award ceremony was held north of the Kilgore office on Third. The festivities included a presentation of pins to Mrs. Gladys Coppock and Bernard L. Kessler, company employees as recognition to their respective 12 and 16 years of service.
The award program was opened by the playing of the ‘Star Spangled Banner,” by the Patterson Field flying band. The invocation was given by the Rev. James F. Walston. Judge Paul T. Klapp, court of common pleas, Miami County, was master of ceremonies. The entire program was broadcast over WING, radio station.