Robert Sheldon Coleman

Robert Sheldon Coleman

Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, USA
Death 21 Sep 1988 (aged 86)
Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas, USA
Burial Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas, USA
Plot Mausoleum: 1-DeLx #3
Memorial ID 7624860 · View Source
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`Washington Post, The (DC) - September 24, 1988
Sheldon Coleman, 86, chairman of the family-controlled Coleman Co. who spearheaded its diversification from making the famous Coleman lantern to include air-conditioning equipment and outdoor gear, died of pneumonia Sept. 21 at a hospital here. He had lupus, a vascular disorder.

Mr. Coleman joined the company in 1925 shortly after graduating from Cornell University with a mechanical engineering degree. He had been the company's leading force since the 1930s.

He found it financially troubled and transformed it into a huge success. Last year, the publicly held company, which has more than 5,000 employees, had record sales of nearly $600 million. It sells products in more than 100 nations and is traded on the American Stock Exchange.

The company was founded by his father, W.C. Coleman, in 1900 in Kingfisher, Okla., as a lighting-service business, leasing lamps and servicing them. In 1901, the business moved to Wichita, where it began producing lamps in 1905.

In 1914 it developed its famous Coleman lanterns, which lengthened the farmer's day. The lantern was used in houses and as a portable lantern. It used pressurized gas and delivered a steady and bright light.

In the 1920s, lamp and lantern production boomed. But the Coleman family almost lost the company during the Great Depression.

Sheldon Coleman saw rural electrification coming and recommended the company diversify by developing oil space heaters and gas floor furnaces in the 1930s. It still produces heating and air-conditioning equipment, including units for mobile homes and recreational vehicles.

During the 1960s, he led another diversification, expanding lantern and camp stove production into dozens of outdoor recreation products. The company eventually became the world's largest manufacturer of such items.

Mr. Coleman was born in Fort Worth, and moved with his family to Wichita when he was a month old. He worked in the Coleman factory while in high school. After graduating from Cornell, he was a machinist in the company plants in Toronto before returning to Wichita in 1928.

Working with his brother Clarence, now Coleman Co. vice chairman, he developed the oil space heater and gas floor furnace, innovations that helped carry the company through the Depression. During the 1940s, the company developed a camp stove that GIs carried into combat.

By 1929, Mr. Coleman was functinoning as head of the company, though he officially did not become chief executive officer until 1940. He was named president in 1951 and board chairman after his father died in 1957.

Mr. Coleman was active in a number of civic and professional organizations, serving as vice chairman of the board of governors of the American Red Cross and as a member of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He also was a member of President Reagan's Commission on Americans Outdoors.

He was a recipient of the prestigious Mountain of Jade award from the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

In addition to his brother, Mr. Coleman is survived by his wife, Galey, a son, Sheldon Coffin, who is company president and lives in Wichita; two daughters, Virginia Coleman of Wichita and Carolyn Vickers of Denver; three stepchildren; 14 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren

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  • Created by: David G. Stuart
  • Added: 26 Jun 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7624860
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Robert Sheldon Coleman (15 Nov 1901–21 Sep 1988), Find a Grave Memorial no. 7624860, citing Old Mission Mausoleum, Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas, USA ; Maintained by David G. Stuart (contributor 2804148) .