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William Coleman – Lighting the Way


They say our eyes are the window to the soul.

We say our eyes are also the keys to unlocking the outdoors. 

It is our vision that helps us witness the flowing waterfall…stare at the summit of a mountain…cast a line to catch the rainbow trout…watch the sun’s colors melt like sorbet as it swaps places with the night sky. 

The ability to see is not simply one of our five senses. It helps us connect with Mother Nature, allowing us to fully experience all she has to offer.

Seeing isn’t just believing. It helps us soak in the moments and turn them into memories that stay with us for years to come. The mind carries the scenes we see like a forever looping highlight reel. 

And what helps us all to see? Light.

As darkness encloses around us when we are out camping or climbing, we don’t have to wait for the sun to rise again or keep the bonfire burning to maintain our sight and stay warm. 

Thankfully, we have tools for that.

If we want something more mobile, versatile and reliable than a fire, we can turn to the portable glow of a lantern or a flashlight. If we want to carry a hot cup of coffee, we can wrap our hands around a mug or thermos. We have tents to keep us warm. Coolers to keep drinks cold. Cots and air mattresses to keep us from sleeping on the hard ground. 

And these tools didn’t just come out of thin air. More often than not, these helpful resources have the same red and white logo stamped on its side.


Founded in 1900 in Kingfisher, OK, Coleman is an outdoor brand synonymous with quality outdoor gear. Camping sites across the country are packed with Coleman products, and for good reason. They work. The brand has over a century of reliability and use to prove it. 

Now owned by Newell Brands, Coleman got its start – and its namesake—thanks to the ingenuity and dedication of William Coleman. 

Little did one man know, but his knack for providing the ability to see would become a guiding light, illuminating the beauty of the outdoors for millions. 

The founding father of the popular outdoor brand, W. C. Coleman used his skills and passion to create a company that provides significant resources to utilize— not just at camping sites, but wherever we would need warmth, light or comfort. Football games. Music festivals. Tailgate parties. 

William Coffin Coleman had a vision. And thanks to his dedication, his vision allows us to see and experience the outdoors in a whole new way.

Lighting the Spark

It all started with a lantern. 

The year was 1900. William Coffin Coleman—born in 1870—was a young salesman in Kansas who aspired to become a lawyer. He only took the job to help pay for his schooling.

While selling typewriters in Alabama, William came across a lantern in a drugstore window that burned brighter than he had ever seen. Fueled by gasoline, the lamp had a consistent, intense glow in comparison to the flickering gas lights, dim carbon filament bulbs, and smoky kerosene lamps commonly used back in those days. 

Impressed by the usefulness of this brighter, better lamp, William left the typewriter gig, and obtained the rights to sell lanterns manufactured by the Irby-Gilliland Company in Memphis, TN.

William had found his passion. Soon after, he found his calling. 

Rather than selling the lamps, William started renting out his lamps to shopkeepers for $1 per week. Rental sales boomed. William broadened his sales reach, transforming the business into a far reaching, hydrocarbon light company.

But he didn’t stop there. 

William knew he could make the lamps better, so he spent time and resources to improve their design and efficiency. Soon, Coleman Arc Lamps were born: a better, brighter, more efficient lamp. People took notice and put those lamps to good use. The Coleman lamps even lit the field for one of the first-ever night football games held at Fairmount College in Wichita, Kansas. 

Once again, William continued to push the boundaries.. 

He saw an opportunity to expand the product line and include additional gas and oil-fueled resources. Efficiency and effectiveness were his bread and butter. Thanks to William, the company added portable gas stoves, oil space heaters and gas furnaces to the mix.

Coleman products became a resource as necessary as protective weapons during World War II. Soldiers fighting overseas relied on Coleman pocket stoves for warmth and food; war correspondents even called the tool one of the most important pieces of non-combat equipment during the war.


Then in the 1950s, Coleman revolutionized the outdoor industry with the invention of cooler manufacturers.


Still, William kept going, pressing the company forward. As the years went on, the trusted brand added tents, sleeping bags, lighting and more to their roster of outdoor-inspired goods.

The entrepreneur was still active in the company when he passed away in 1957.

Coleman’s love for the outdoors is a strong brick that the brand continues to stand on to this day. As stated on the company’s website: “At Coleman®, we believe that time spent outside reconnects people with each other and the planet, creating a path to a better tomorrow.”

One man changed the outdoor world. 

Tools for the Trade

Finding fulfillment and having a successful outdoor adventure—whether it is camping, hiking, biking, climbing and more—is partially reliant on having the right resources. Half the battle is becoming equipped.

As wildlings who are passionate about the outdoors, we know preparation is key when it comes to seeking our next big adventure.

But we can’t go anywhere or do anything without our vision. Seeing is the first step to doing. Whether it’s our goal to scale a mountain or a dream to dive deeper into the vast wilderness, it is our ability to picture it that propels us forward to experience the outdoors.

It is our vision that can help provide a closer connection to nature. Seeing bring us closer to ourselves – and to others. When we witness the same moment, it can become magic. 

Our exchange of “Whoa, did you see that?” and “Yeah,I did–it’s incredible.” Bonds are built between those words. Within those shared visions.

Memories are best made around a campfire when you aren’t focused on what you’re missing but feeling content because we have what we need. 

After all, half the fun is in the preparation, right? It’s in the packing of the backpacks and knapsacks, or re-arranging everything in the truck of our van or truck, or working together to pitch the tent and set up the cots and sleeping bags. 

When we look at our gear options, we can take it in and realize it’s the result of hard work from one or many minds of those that have come before us…those thought leaders and game changers like W. C. Coleman. 

His life shows that you can take an idea, build on it, and make it better. Then add more: more efficiency, value, brightness, boldness, usefulness. And never stop. 

Because, after all, to illuminate the world, all it takes is a spark. 

About Giving Gratitude

We tell stories to help you discover what it is that makes you feel… alive. In our industry, there are plenty of people who inspire us to do just that. Whether they’re scaling mountains or moving them, these dream chasers – Pathfinders, as we call them – motivate us. So in celebration of them, we’re Giving Gratitude by sharing their stories with you. Hopefully, you’ll feel as alive as we do.

Find Your Moment