The Red Comet Company began in 1919 in Denver, renting space in one of the Ingersoll Rand buildings north of Littleton. Ernest R. Conrad and Fred W. Lucco took charge in 1933 and moved operations to 2290 W. Main Street, Littleton. In 1943, they moved to the former Hunt Ford garage at Main and Sycamore. Some time later, Red Comet purchased the building from William C. Sterne.
|Ad in the Littleton Independent, 1948.|
A forward-looking businessman from New Mexico, Max Romero came to the Red Comet Company in 1948 as a salesman. The company was already successfully making and selling fire extinguishers in several states. Max began selling in Mexico where he knew the language. In a short time, he became general sales manager, helping to expand sales further into all 48 states and overseas. Four years later, Romero bought the company and became its president. The company landed major contracts in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, and Indonesia.
Red Comet made several kinds of fire extinguishers for homes and offices as well as automobiles. The extinguishers were produced in sizes ranging from 2.5 pounds to 100 pounds. The popular "Fireman's Kit" contained six to eight grenades which were thrown at the base of a fire, allowing fluid to splash over the flames. The pressurized canister type of fire extinguisher was used by spraying at the base of the fire, similar to the grenade type. Both contained carbon tetrachloride. Red Comet became known for such developments as the "smash or slug" method of crashing glass and scattering the fluid in midair.
Red Comet developed fire extinguisher fuses that were set off when the temperature rose to 160 degrees. In automobile fire extinguishers the fuses were set at 255 degrees to allow for the extra heat developed in engines. The fluid used in the fire extinguishers came from Dow Chemical Co. and two other firms in Freeport, Texas. It was quite a problem to unload approximately 17,000 gallons of fluid from railroad cars to the Red Comet location, so a pipeline was run from the railroad into a storage tank at the factory. The pipeline ran under Harrison Avenue (now Sycamore Street) and through the yard of John Vogel, one of the stockholders.
The Red Comet Company was built on advertising, both direct mail and through periodicals. Red Comet ads appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, and Country Gentleman magazines. In forging a name for itself, Red Comet also made the name of Littleton famous.
The Red Comet offices were moved to the Thomas block on Littleton's Main Street in 1933, because of its central location and easy access to railroad facilities, mail facilities and close proximity to a major airport. In 1943, the offices were moved to the former Hunt garage at Main and Sycamore.
|An infamous Main Street "pod" is installed in front of Red Comet Manufacturing Co., c.1966.|
After World War II began, most of Red Comet's fire extinguishers were purchased by the Army and the Navy; retail sales to individuals and businesses declined. Mr. Ernest Conrad, president of Red Comet, published a study of different types of bombs to inform the public of the dangers of wartime weapons. He described the weights, costs, and caliber of incendiary bombs, fragmentation bombs, demolition bombs and armor piercing bombs in this study which was printed in the Littleton Independent. Mr. Conrad saw gasoline and rubber tire rationing on the horizon and, in the early days of the war, advised his employees to buy and use bicycles instead of "machines" (automobiles).
During the 1950's, the company was led by Marshall Norling, from Marshalltown, Iowa. Norling graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder. After graduation, he went to work as a salesman for various companies in the Denver area and eventually found a job at Red Comet. By 1952 he was the president of the Board of Directors at Red Comet.
Red Comet moved several times in the 1970's and 1980's, finally settling at 2795 S. Raritan in Englewood, Colorado in 1989. In the early 1980's, the company split into two parts, one for manufacturing and the other for sales and service. Manufacturing was subsequently discontinued, and what remains today is the sales and service branch. The company now sells brand name portable fire extinguishers as well as other fire protection equipment and offers inspections and maintenance services.
Littleton (Colo.) Independent. The Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888-.
Littleton Independent. Sixtieth Anniversary Edition, 1888-1948. Littleton: Littleton Independent Publishers, 1948.
Littleton Museum. Vertical File.
Red Comet Fire Extinguishers, 2795 South Raritan, Englewood, Colorado 80110, telephone interview by Rebecca Dorwood. February 27, 2001.
US West Dex. Metro Denver A-Z Yellow Pages, 2000-2001. US West Dex, Inc. Publishers: Denver, Colorado.
Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum, unless otherwise noted; to order copies, contact the Museum at 303-795-3950.
Compiled by Rebecca Dorward
Edited by Phyllis Larison and Lorena Donohue
Updated May 2017