The History and Science Behind a Local Spotlight


In the Joplin area this 1942 Sperry spotlight attracts folks to local business, originally this 'searchlight' located incoming German bombers

(Joplin, Mo.) — The 1942 Sperry carbon arc lamp ‘searchlight’ or spotlight was used originally to locate enemy bombers so anti-aircraft guns could see their target in the night skies. Specifically taking down German bombers during night air-raids in World War II.

Now 75-ish years later the same spotlight helps today’s generation locate a great deal on fireworks at the Village Plaza on East 7th and Van Winkle.

“I have a full time job, so I just do this part time.” But there is something about spotlights that attract people! “I’ve had 10 people just come up [in the last hour] checking out the spotlight,” local owner David Bycroft tells us.

Bycroft is a part owner of Meyers Inn Spookhouse in Carthage. He said originally he wanted something to attract people to their spookhouse.

The glass is 5 feet across & the light is carbon rods arcing, which produces a flame.

Bycroft said he actually bought it from someone local and then worked to restore it. It didn’t cost as much as the original price tag. The US goverment paid $60,000 each for these during World War II.

“The beam is made by 2 carbon rods, one positive and one negative, arching within the focal point of a 60 inch parabolic mirror. As the rods “burn” they are automatically fed into the light. The rods last approximately 2 hours and are then replaced,” according to the Fort MacArthur Museum Association: Sperry Searchlight Project.

“The flame that is visible during the lights operation, is not actually the source of the light, rather, it is a by-product, produced as a result of the electricity arcing between the 2 rods.”

Searchlight used in World War II helps locals find great deal$ on fireworks!

In 1942 this Sperry ‘searchlight’ spotted German bombers in the night sky so gunners could take them down during an air raid. Now the same carbon flame helps Joplin folks get a great deal on East 7th Fireworks! CLICK for some cool history & science

Posted by Joplin News First on Thursday, July 4, 2019


  • Lamp Type: Carbon Arc (no light bulb!) 
  • Candle Power: 800 Million 
  • Effective Beam width: 5′ plus 
  • Effective Beam length: 5.6 miles 
  • Effective Beam visibility: 28~35 miles 

Source in part for this story is from a restoration of a similar Sperry Spotlight Project done by the Fort MacArthur Museum in Los Angeles California. Link:

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.