Stimson Reflector

Reflectors are small fixtures that outline vehicles, signs, and road surfaces and help prevent collisions at night. In the mid-1920s, Jonathan Cass Stimson, a St. Louis inventor, patented an improved “central triple reflector” with angled, cube-shaped cells that reflect light rays back to their source regardless of direction. He formed two companies to manufacture reflectors of this type and sold them to many customers, including General Motors, Ford, and other automobile manufacturers. His early reflectors were made of glass, but he made the transition to plastic and coined the name Stimsonite for his plastic reflectors. Stimson reflectors were widely used on automobile tail lights, highway signs, guard rails, road flares, railroad signals and yards, airport signs, marine beacons, bicycle fenders, and other applications.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1935
Stimson Reflector Company
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
plastic (reflector material)
overall: 13.5 cm x 5.5 cm x .375 cm; 5 5/16 in x 2 3/16 in x 1/8 in
reflector: 5 cm; 1 15/16 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Road Transportation
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Road Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Gordon W. Bowie and Mary Stimson Bowie

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.