Sashalite photoflash bulbs, c 1930s.
© National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The first commercial flashbulb was patented in 1930. Previously, photographers used devices which burned magnesium powder to provide artificial light when required. The Sashalite bulbs were produced in the United Kingdom by the General Electric Company, and derived their name from a portrait photographer of the time known as 'Sasha', who was involved in their development. Sashalite bulbs were the same size and had the same fitting as British electric light bulbs, and the instructions with them warned users not to fit the foil-filled bulbs in light sockets. Although the early flashbulbs were regarded as being safer than flash powders, they were prone to explode on occasions, showering the surroundings with glas.