Sylvania started as Hygrade Sylvania Corporation when NILCO, Sylvania and Hygrade Lamp Company merged into one company in 1931. In 1939, Hygrade Sylvania started preliminary research on fluorescent technology, and later that year, introduced the first linear, or tubular, fluorescent lamp ever made. It was featured at the 1939 New York World's Fair.
Sylvania was also a manufacturer of both vacuum tubes and transistors.
In 1942, the company changed its name to Sylvania Electric Products Inc.
In 1959, Sylvania Electronics merged with General Telephone to form General Telephone and Electronics (GTE)
Through merger and aquisitions, the Company became a significant, but never dominating supplier of electrical distribution equipment, including transformers and switchgear, residential and commercial load centers and breakers, pushbuttons, indicator lights and other hard-wired devices. All were manufactured and distributed under the brand name GTE Sylvania, with the name Challenger used for it light commercial and residential product lines.
GTE Sylvania contributed to the technological advancement of electrical distribution products in the late 70's with several interesting product features. At the time, they were the leading supplier of vacuum cast coil transformers, manufactured in their Hampton, VA plant. Their transformers featured aluminum primary winding and were cast using relatively inexpensive molds, allowing them to produce cast coil transformers in a variety of KVA capacities, primary and secondary voltages and physical coil sizes, including low profile coils for mining and other specialty applications. They also developed the first medium voltage 3 phase panel that could survive a dead short across two phases. Their pateneted design used bus bar encapsulated in a thin coating of epoxy and then bolted together across all three phases, using special non-conductive fittings.
By 1981 GTE had made the decision to exit the electrical distribution equipment market and began selling off its product lines and manufacturing facilities. The Challenger line, mostly manufactured at the time in Jackson, MS, was sold to a former officer of GTE, who used the Challenger name as the name of his new company. Challenger florished, and was eventually sold to Westinghouse, and later Eaton Corporation. By the mid 80's the GTE Sylvania electrical equipment product line and name was no more.
In 1993 GTE exited the lighting business to concentrate on its core telecomms operations. The European, Asian and Latin American operations are now under the ownership of Havells Sylvania. With the acquisition of the North American division by Osram GmbH in January 1993 Osram Sylvania Inc. was established.