111 years ago, the United Incandescent and Electrical Ltd. registered its “Tungsram” trademark name in Hungary and in the countries of the Madrid Union, then in a series of other nations.

The trademark went through substantial changes in design and was extended on the expanding product portfolio of Tungsram. Management’s efforts focused on establishing and maintaining the trademark as a seal of quality and innovation, while in Hungary, Tungsram stood for a company with generous welfare organizations and commitment to sport and science, as well.

111 years ago, on 28th April 1909, the United Incandescent and Electrical Ltd. registered the trademark “Tungsram” for incandescent lamps in Hungary and in the countries of the Madrid Union, and then in a series of other nations. “TUNGSRAM” comes from the English (tungsten) and German (Wolfram), the equivalent of tungsten, emphasizing the important role the company played in introducing tungsten filament to light bulbs. This created name is fashioned similar to OSRAM, which comes from Osmium and Wolfram, the two metals the Auer Company – a forerunner of Osram – used in incandescent lamps. The Tungsram brand covered key products that the Tungsram portfolio offered in lighting, radio valves, and in some markets, radio equipment, as well; then later in TV-valves, semiconductors, floppy disks, and so on. The composite brand name TUNGSRAM KRYPTON was registered in 1938; then from 1976, ACTION TUNGSRAM stood for the US-American subsidiary of Tungsram, a joint venture with Action Industries Inc., and its general lighting products.

The Tungsram logo’s design has changed substantially during these more than one hundred years. The font and the colors had been first fixed in 1938-1939. At the same time, in 1938, the T-emblem logo was registered as an auxiliary visual element for the brand. The forerunner of the T-emblem may have been a design used as letterhead from the 1930s, as seen in the image below. This corporate logo visually unified the company and the radio product group radio.

(picture 1).

The cover of the August exemplar of Tungsram Radio 1938-1939, a journal which covered scientific achievements of the Tungsram Research Laboratory in the radio field and practical information for radio amateurs, merged the trademark’s newly designed elements: the brand name in capital letters, in this particular font, the T-emblem and everything in blue-white-red.


(picture 2)

Prominent painters’ and designers’ creations left lasting impressions in customers’ mind such as the woman with the cat by Géza Faragó from 1912,


(picture 3)

or the iconic red-white-black Bauhaus-style poster for radio valves from 1929, designed by Tihamér Csemiczky, used especially in German speaking countries.


(picture 4).

Visual and written information served to make customers aware of the scientific achievements behind the simple visual appearance of the products. For example, a somewhat overstating advertisement in Hungarian newspapers in 1929 praised Tungsram barium valves as the third step after electricity and broadcasting in the development of humankind, or in 1935, another newspaper advertisement compared dome-shaped radio valves – as the latest stage of development – to up-to-date streamlined cars.

(picture 5 and 6).

In Hungary, the image of the Tungsram products was inseparable from that of the company as a leader of establishing private welfare institutions for its employees from private welfare funds over staff canteen, cultural and sport facilities, to a housing program, decades-long support to the Lighting Technology Station (Világítástechnikai Állomás) or the establishment of the Chair for Nuclear Physics at the Technical University. These institutions produced benefits for Hungarians beyond those enjoyed by the company’s employees in the Újpest district and in the provincial towns where Tungsram had established factories, and for Hungarian sport and science in general.

Since 1909, maintaining the image of high-quality products and preventing the abuse of the trademark have been key. For example, from the mid-1930s, an agreement with Philips and Telefunken offering the same type of radio valves with identical serial numbers made the identical quality of these products clear enough, while in other countries, the partners could sell Tungsram valves to small equipment manufacturers. In these cases, a higher number of quality complaints and these smaller companies’ quick disappearance from the market shed a negative light on the Tungsram trademark, as well. During the planned economy, state authorities’ imperfect understanding of the importance of preserving the prestige of the trademark was expressed in Tungsram’s being compelled to bring a charge against Electroimpex – a public enterprise exporting and importing electrical products – for selling various products of inferior quality by small Hungarian producers labelled as TUNGSRAM in 1967.

After the separation from GE, Tungsram returned to the market as an innovative company with high-quality products, expressing this new reality with a clean and modern design:


Source of pictures:

  1. Žipek, Alois; Grmela, Jan; Jarolímek, Ladislav (Hg.), Prag. Orbis, Prag, 1933
  2. Tungsram Radio. Technische Mitteilungen 1938-1939 VII. (August 1938).
  3. MTI Archivum/ Tungsram Gyártörténeti Gyűjtemény
  4. Radio-Markt11.1933, 48.
  5. Pesti Hírlap 51 (1929.11.10.) 256, 10.
  6. Keleti Újság 18 (1935.01.07.) 5, 3.
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