The Whelen Archives | Our Bright Past with Funeral Lighting

Whelen has been pushing the boundaries of innovation since 1952. The Whelen Archives will explore and celebrate our rich heritage over the last six decades.

Happy Halloween! There is no better time than October to learn about Whelen’s funeral lighting past.

Urning the Automotive Market

In 1953, George W Whelen III began modifying his revolutionary aircraft beacon for use with automobiles. Back then, it was very common in small towns for the funeral director’s hearse to also be used as the ambulance. Therefore, many of Whelen’s first automotive products were installed on hearses.

In the Spirit of Excellent Engineering

Whelen began to design and engineer lighting for funeral processions about 25 years ago when several states began requiring escort vehicles to use purple lights. A funeral director from Maryland contacted us directly asking for lights for his hearses. We begin developing purple lenses and domes for our most popular and easiest to install products, including our Responder® Cadet™, Dash-King 2000 ™, and Mini Edge®. All our purple products featured white LEDs and purple lenses and domes.

A Dead Giveaway

The first time Whelen showcased our purple products was at the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) conference in Boston, MA. The Whelen booth was so busy that it was impossible to step away and explore the show. We handed out purple bumper stickers that said, “Whelen puts the FUN back in FUNERAL.” We’re dying to see if anyone out there has one of these bumper stickers.

The Spirit of Whelen Funeral Lights

While the popularity and demand for funeral lights were short-lived due to changing laws, you can still find purple Whelen lights in several states. Have you seen any where you live? Let us know on social media.

Have a safe and healthy Halloween!

The Whelen Archives explores and celebrates our rich heritage and innovations. Learn more about our history here.