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2317 Winnebago Street


The French Battery Company was founded in 1906. Named in honor of the Frenchman who developed its first battery, the firm operated briefly in Chicago before moving to Madison. With the technical advice and direction of Professor C. F. Burgess of the University of Wisconsin's Chemical Engineering department, the company produced all types of batteries, including telephone, ignition, flashlight and radio batteries. The company built this one-story plant in 1916 and added two floors in the same style in 1920. In 1917 Professor Burgess started his own competing battery company, which has evolved into todays Research Products Corporation. In the mid 1930's the French Battery Co. changed its name to "Ray-O-Vac," after the trade name of its batteries. The company was proud of its leadership in the field of employee benefits. In 1925 it started a comprehensive employee insurance program, and in 1941 it introduced a pension plan. It encouraged it supervisors to engage in civic activities and sponsored many social and athletic events, including a ukulele club. During WWII Ray-O-Vac employed over 4,000 people around the world. Today its home offices are still located in Madison and the firm employs about 800 people here.

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