Benjamin F. Flegel, the organizer and promoter of the Reliance Automatic Lighting Company of Racine, was born near Portage, Wisconsin, August 28, 1878, a son of Ferdinand and Alice (Neef) Flegel. The father was a carpenter by trade but the family lived upon a farm during the early boyhood of Benjamin F. Flegel, who began his education in the district schools. In 1887, the father removed with his family to Tomahawk, Wisconsin, so that he continued his education there as a public school pupil. When fourteen years of age, however, he started out to earn his own living and secured employment as a watchmaker and for fifteen years was connected with the jewelry business. In 1899 he came to Racine and worked for Charles Lovell, a jeweler, with whom he continued for two years. In 1901 he bought out Mr. Lovell and continued in the jewelry business until 1908, after which he went east and was engaged in the manufacturing business as a manufacturer of fishing tackle. He is himself a noted disciple of Izaak Walton and holds the world’s record for long distance casting. The record, which he made on the 5th, 6th and 7th of September, 1914, was for a half ounce, two hundred and twenty-two feet and one inch: for a quarter ounce, one hundred and seventy-seven feet and five inches, both being for an average of five casts. Both of these are world’s records. He used tackle of his own design and his tackle is now manufactured on a royalty basis. In 1909 he organized the Reliance Automatic Lighting Company in Warren, Ohio, and in 1911 removed the plant to Racine. The plant for the switch has a capacity of eighteen hundred machines per year and shipments are made all over the United States and to various points abroad.
On the 2nd of July, 1901, Mr. Flegel was married to Miss Helen Basinger, of Racine, a daughter of Volney and Mary (Burdick) Basinger, who were early settlers of this city, where her father engaged in the livery business. To Mr. and Mrs. Flegel have been born two children Volney Benjamin, whose birth occurred in June, 1902, and who died aged one year and ten months; and Dean Franklin, who was born in Ohio in September, 1907.
Mr. Flegel occupies an enviable position in business circles of Racine and also has a most extensive acquaintance among sportsmen who make fishing their chief source of recreation. Cordial and genial in disposition, he wins friends wherever he goes and has the high regard of all with whom he has been associated.