Joshua Lionel CowenThe original owner of the American Eveready Battery Company, Joshua Lionel Cowen, abandoned the hardware company to pursue his real passion of trains. Cowen was an inventor of sorts; he developed a fuse to ignite photographic flash powder. Though the invention failed in its intent, the U.S. Navy bought up the fuses to use with underwater explosives.
The FlashlightCowen next came up with an idea for a decorative lighting fixture for potted plants: a metal tube with a light bulb and a dry cell battery that could run the light bulb for 30 days. He passed the idea along to one of his Eveready salespersons, Conrad Hubert, along with his company. Hubert turned the metal tube, light bulb and battery into the world's first flashlight, and began selling the batteries and the flashlight, together and as separate items.
Success and Lionel Model TrainsHubert became a multi-millionaire, Eveready became a huge company, and Joshua Lionel Cowen finally achieved the success he really wanted: he was the person who invented toy trains in 1900. As happened with the fuses and the flashlight, Cowen was actually trying to invent something else when he invented toy trains. He originally intended to create a store window display, a battery powered toy car that travelled on a circle of track. People wanted to buy the display more than the real merchandise for sale.
Joshua Lionel Cowen went on to start Lionel Model Trains.