The Marbelite Company

A Collectors’ Reference

This collectors reference was originally conceived after I spoke with Joe LiPari of the Marbelite Company back in the early 2000s. He had kindly looked up for me the years of manufacture of the different housing cast IDs I had found in my collection of Marbelite signals. He also informed me that the original castings were created in 1938 by the Horni Signal Manufacturing Corporation, which Marbelite took over in 1947.


Before 1947: The “Pre-Horni” Years

Marbelite was producing traffic lights for some time before acquiring the traffic division of Horni Signal Mfg. Corp in 1947. The only “Pre-Horni” era Marbelites I have ever seen featured an open-sectional, tie-rodded design that visually reminds me of a hybrid of GE and AGA signals.

These early Marblites are quite rare. I am only aware of two signals that have changed hands in all my years of collecting; one full red-amber-green head that sold on eBay many years ago, and the single-section lamp shown below, recently found by Ohio collector Gerrit Carstensen.

Note that the reflector frame in Gerrit’s signal appears to be stamped RULETA, which was an “associate” company to Marbelite. Apparently, not only were old Horni molds being used for Ruleta-branded signals, but some of their parts were used in Marbelite signals as well. In the ad seen on the left, the 4-way signal exemplifies the Horni/Ruleta style, while the 2-way cluster is a Marbelite-branded signal, like Gerrit’s below. The photo above on the right shows early Marbelite signals in use in Philadelphia.

To add to the confusion of Marbelite’s history, one year before taking over Horni Signal, Marbelite had taken over Signal Service Corporation of Elizabeth NJ. Marbelite did not produce the SSC style signals for very long. Once they took over Horni, they ran with that design.


1947-48 : The First “Post-Horni” Marbelites

In 1947, Marbelite adopted the newly-acquired (and more modern) Horni equipment as their main product line, and ostensibly took over many or most of Horni’s accounts, thereby becoming one of the biggest brands in traffic equipment, on the level of big competitors such as Crouse-Hinds, Eagle and GE. New York City was about to begin upgrading their entire signal infrastructure, and they decided to go with Marbelite exclusively.

Exterior features:

The Marbelite signals of this period are virtually unchanged from the defunct Horni.

The immediate change was to simply replace the Horni script logo with the block-lettered MARBELITE logo on the back of the single-face sections, and on the dome/floor of 4-way signals.


Interior features:

  • The reflector frames are embossed TC-19145 by the socket sleeve (the word HORNI has been removed).
  • Cast ID TD-19143 H.S. is faintly embossed on the inside floor of the housing.
  • A Cast ID may be embossed on the upper left corner of the door. My signal has blank doors.

First changes to the doors:

Soon after the Horni-Marbelite transition, probably by 1948, the access doors were changed slightly:

  1. A small lip / flange was added around the perimeter.
  2. The retaining wire mount inside the door was changed to a simpler design wherein a bent piece of wire was hung in place, rather than being bolted onto the door.

1948-1950 : “Phantomless” Reflectors

In or around 1948, Marbelite introduced the “phantomless” optical unit to reduce the reflection of ambient light from the signal.  This was accomplished with shallower reflectors. The glass is also thinner than in the previous generation.  From this point forward, the size of the actual reflector bowls remained unchanged, so if you have one of these “Phantomless” lights in need of reflectors, you should be able to find replacements (either glass or aluminum) fairly easily. It’s not so easy for the older models…

A deep collar in front of the reflector seats the mirrors farther back from the lens. The frames have a 4-spoke design with “Dzus” fasteners.

The body of the signals did not change; this was only a change to the door mounts and reflectors. Cast ID TD-19143 H.S. is still embossed on the inside floor of the housing.

A Marbelite fixed-face 4-way from the 1948-50 period is shown on the right.  The doors and reflectors are the same between fixed-face and adjustable signals.


1950-1953 : The First “Patent Pending” Marbelites

A significant design change occurred in 1950. A patent for a new reflector system was applied for on 25 Feb 1950.  This change is another one that was evidently on the heels of General-Electric, who introduced their own in-housing reflector system in 1949.

  • Reflectors are moved from the back of the door to inside the signal housing. The patented reflector system swivels in the housing on a bent brass wire.  The reflector glass is unchanged, and I believe aluminum reflectors started being offered.
  • Logo change: PAT. PEND. and NEW YORK, U.S.A. verbiage was added.
  • Cast ID remains the same: TD-19143 H.S. is still embossed on the inside floor of the housing.
  • Door change #1: The circular lens “collar” on the door was reduced from about 1″ deep to about 1/2″, and there is a slightly rounder profile to the raised corners inside the lip of each door. All of the mounting appendages inside the door were removed with the new reflector system.
  • Visors (either tunnel or cutaway style) were 7″ or 8″ length with a downward-slant profile.
  • On the fixed-face (1-way) signals, the dimples on the back and around the bottom wire entrance were removed at some point during this period.
1058.door.JoeC
  • Door Change #2 (see image above): The door shape changed again at some point in this period to a deep profile with no lip, and with no hinge bosses across the front.  This new door shape carried through the Model 1058 generation.

{ “Finned” Marbelites of the 1950s }

The early patent pending Marbelite signals from 1950-1953 could optionally be retro-fitted with decorative end plates and tie rods. This was offered to be in compliance with outdated specs in certain municipalities (e.g., Baltimore).  The end plates were merely attached to the top and bottom sections with a single bolt, and then run through with two tie rods.  These were not a functional necessity, but they do add a graceful touch.  The fins came in at least two varieties, a flatter fin with three vertical bars, and a more peaked fin with five bars.  These are known as “Finned Marbelites”, or “Marb-Decos” among collectors.


1950s-1970s: Marbelite L Series (12″ Lens) Signals

First Generation

The 1950s saw the introduction of signals with 12″ lenses. Marbelite called their 12″ signals the “L Series”. The first L Series Marbelites (seen above) were the same shape as the 8″ signals, and had dual welding strips across the back of each section. These early Type Ls do not show up very often. The first four images above are of NOS sections (stand-alone and combined with 8″ sections) that were sold on eBay.

Second Generation

The L Series signal was soon redesigned to a more complex and materially efficient shape, with recessed ends for drainage, rounded doors and a domed back. This design was widely produced starting at least as early as 1963 (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a few years earlier). The oldest signals of this generation have a flat door, and the newest signals have a raised ridge around the perimeter of the door.


1953-1965 : The Marbelite “Model 1058”

  • The term “Model 1058″ is used in the 1963 catalog to denote the fixed-face (1-way) 8” signals. I do not know when this name was first used, or if any other model name came before or after it.
  • This is the end of the “Flat Top” period, as the fixed-face signal sections now have a recessed top and bottom with splined wire entrances, and a rain notch in back for improved water drainage. (see photo on left)
  • The logo on the sections continues to have the PAT. PEND. | NEW YORK, U.S.A. verbiage.
  • The doors continue to have the “deep” profile with no lip, and no hinge bosses across the face.
  • Cast ID has changed: TD-19260 is now embossed on back inside wall of housing.
  • Although three raised drill points were provided to bolt the sections together, it started to become commonplace to fasten the sections together with rings and carriage bolts at the wire entrance holes during this generation.


1965-1970?: A Lighter Cast

  • The basic sectional shape and dimensions remained the same from the previous model, but the cast is slightly thinner.
  • The three drill points on the roof and floor of the sections have been removed; sections are always fastened together by rings and carriage bolts.
  • The logo changed to a down-slope parallelogram.
  • Cast ID TE-19408 is embossed on the inside wall of the housing.
  • The doors have a rubber gasket on the back (no gasket on the housing).
  • The door shape is a smooth square with rounded corners and squared bases at the visor mounts.
  • The reflector frames are spring-loaded, rather than sitting on a brass wire.

At this time, Marbelite stopped producing fixed-face 4-way signals.

Also around this time, Marbelite introduced their LPS-20 pedestrian signal.


1970?-1978 : Last-Gen Marbelites

  • The logo is changed to rectangular “Traffic Light” design.  The PAT. PEND. verbiage has been removed.
  • Back plate mounting nibs have been added behind the latch and hinge mounts.
  • The cast ID TE-19408 is embossed on the inside wall of the housing (unchanged since 1965).

This was the last era of manufacture of Marbelite-branded aluminum vehicular traffic signals.  I believe that Marbelite went out of business at this time, and then re-started at a later date.


GTE – using Marbelite molds (approx. 1997-2014)

In the late 1990s, General Traffic Equipment (GTE) of Newburgh, NY acquired and used the old Marbelite TE-19408 signal casting molds (see immediately above) – as well as other Marbelite castings for parts such as cabinets, slip-fitters and connectors. The housings were practically unchanged from Marbelite, except that the Marbelite logo was replaced by the GTE logo. The doors were still embossed MARBELITE on the inside. A representative of GTE told collector Steven Gembara that they stopped using these molds around 2014.

These modern GTE signals are the end of a long line of history, as they have the same cross-sectional shape as the Horni sectional signals of 1938!


Special thanks goes to Joe LiPari of The Marbelite Company, who looked up the years of manufacture of the cast IDs for me in a phone conversation many years ago.  Thanks also goes to fellow collectors, including Jay Jenkins, Larry Currie, Bailey Stumbaugh, Steven Gembara, Phil Glick, Lary Brown, and the late Jesse Vallely, for helping identify the minutae.