W.C. Coleman, founder of the Coleman company, started his entrepreneurial career selling small goods as a child after the death of his father in the 1880s. In 1900, as a young man selling typewriters, Coleman saw a lantern in drugstore window that used gasoline instead of kerosene. Coleman, who had poor eyesight, was impressed by the light quality and switched over to selling, leasing, and servicing gasoline lanterns. In 1903 he bought the rights to the Efficient Lamp, improved its design, and began selling it as the Coleman Arc Lamp.
By 1909 Coleman invented a portable table lamp and by 1914 the first Coleman gasoline lantern. During World War I, Coleman made more than one million lamps for American farmers to support wartime efforts, with money and materials supplied by the U.S. government.
During World War II, Coleman designed the G.I. pocket stove (Model 520 Coleman Military Burner), which was compact, relatively lightweight, and could burn many fuels. More than a million were produced for use during the war. After the war, Coleman offered a civilian version, Model 530. In the 1960s the company continued expanding its camping offerings.
Today Coleman offers lanterns, shelters, stoves, flashlights, backpacks, sleeping bags, and other camping equipment. It is owned by Newell Brands.