The Ripley Company likely commenced manufacture of photoelectric lighting controls not long after Fisher Pierce introduced theirs, in the late 1940's. Ripley began operation in Middletown, Connecticut.
Earliest Ripley photocontrols were of the tube-powered design and like Fisher Pierce and other competitors in the industry, Ripley began to offer totally solid state models about 1960 or a couple years earlier.
The company's earliest solid state models were of the twist lock attachment design which was standardized in the photocontrol industry in 1959. These were plastic-enclosed controls, painted silver on the inside with an approximate 3/4-inch diameter round clear aperture opening that exposed the light-sensitive photocell. This design continued without any changes until about mid-1965. One of the drawbacks of the painted-inside models was that the paint often flaked off the inside with time and the plastic housing became more brittle due to weather cracking. Most of these were 1000-watt load rated controls, although a small number were manufactured during approximately 1962 through 1965 with 500-watt load ratings. The advantage of these was slightly less cost and were ideal for individual lower-wattage individual luminarie operation. The standard 1000-watt load, 120-volt model during that period was their #5946; the 500-watt version was #5946PE5. Electrical and catalog number data was stamped on the plastic bases of their circa 1960-1965 units in very small lettering. Ripley Sunswitches produced later in 1965 were manufactured with solid white covers with an approximately one-inch square photocell aperture opening. Similarly, nameplate data appeared stamped in small lettering. The Ripley name and other relevant embossing on the white units was in slightly raised lettering on their tops while their silver predecessors had embossing indented up on the upper inside, making a smooth-faced top. The white controls' uppermost embossing was highlighted in black paint which quickly wore off due to weather exposure. However, their plastic enclosures did not fade or change color from years of use. White Ripley Sunswitches removed from service with 30 or more years of service are just as white as they were when they were new! No doubt they utilized a high quality, ultraviolet-resistant, non-weather cracking plastic formula for making their controls' covers. White controls of this description were produced until late 1966 or early 1967.
From the earliest Ripley twist-lock controls through mid-1965 when the solid white units were introduced the last two digits of the year of manufacture and a month code (represented by a letter) appeared on a small square paper label affixed to the unit's plastic mounting base. On a separate label was the unit's serial number. When the solid white units were introduced such date code identification was no longer employed, except in rare instances. Apparently the year/month of manufacture was deciphered from the serial number label that continued to appear in the same location. This methodology was continued until 1968 when the year/month date labels reappeared. As before, the last two digits of the year appeared first followed by a letter, representing the month of manufacture (A for January, B for February; C for March; and so forth). This procedure has been utilized by the company ever since, to the present day.
In early 1967 or so Ripley Sunswitches were built with lighter, more compact components, however their outer plastic covers remained exactly the same with the exception that they were made of an apparently less expensive plastic. Originally light gray or white, these units turned to a light cream color after a period of weathering and sunlight exposure. These covers were employed until early 1971. At that time the internal components were housed in a shorter enclosure, very much like the company utilizes today. These have a "tombstone" style photocell aperture opening. These smaller photocontrols were about the size as those Fisher Pierce had been manufacturing at that time. Ripley continued to utilize the same, less expensive, sun-fading plastic that they started to use in 1967. In 1971 identification data continued to appear on the units' bases on a yellow paper label, as the case had been since 1967. In 1972 the last digit of the manufacturing year began to appear on the units' tops, enclosed in a circle. Some Sunswitches made from 1972 through 1975 had this marking, while others did not. It is likely all of the 1967 to 1975 covers originally were light gray or white when new. Also, year- identified photocontrol covers were used into the following year's production until the supply of them ran out. For instance, it is not unusual to spot a Ripley with a "3" on top with a 1974 date label. This has been occasionally true for Fisher Pierce as well, especially their 1971 ("1" on top, enclosed in a circle, also) controls. 1971 was the first year they numbered their controls' tops and many of these continued well into their 1972 production, until about the end of the year's third quarter. The actual manufacturing date is that which appears on the photocontrol's paper label; the numerical information on top is of secondary consequence. Interestingly, use of the previous year's overstock covers by Ripley and Fisher Pierce occurs to the present.
During July 1975 a fire destroyed the Ripley plant and it was not until 1979 or 1980 when they began to offer their own photocontrols again. During the period when their factory was being rebuilt (1975-79) the company wanted to maintain public visibility and offered controls that appear to have been made by Tung-Sol, in Japan. These units were embossed on top with the Ripley name and otherwise were identical to the Tung-Sol ones. These Ripleys were somewhat smaller than their predecessors and were enclosed in clear translucent plastic covers that turned brownish after a period of sunlight exposure. On their base was Ripley's familiar year/month date label. These controls are rare and apparently were not a large special-order item for the company. Despite the fire, they probably also wanted to keep their customers assuring them that they had not gone out of business and would soon resume regular production.
Such was the case. In 1979 or 1980 the Ripley company resumed photocontrol manufacture and their units appear very similar to their last 1975 controls, inside and out. Exterior colors and the same grade plastic was used. Most began to sun-fade, thus the light gray ones (105 to 130 volts) turned to a light yellowish or creamy color while the blue (105 to 285 volts) units turned greenish. In 1990 the company began to utilize a more sturdy, ultraviolet-resistant plastic enclosure on their photocontrols, which significantly reduced the color-shifting problem. Also, the new plastic formula was much less brittle than that of previous models.
Photos of Ripley Sunswitch photocontrols
RIPLEY SUNSWITCHES (1960-1966)
MISCELLANEOUS MANUFACTURERS AND PHOTOCONTROLS
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