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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Antique Lamps



The lamp used on sailing vessels is called a gimbel lamp, and has a unique construction to allow it to swing with the movement of the ship, yet never be in danger of tipping over in rough seas. Not many of these remain today.

Sometime around 1810 or so, came the invention of wick tubes on a disk which was in turn cemented onto a cork in order to fit into the neck of a glass lamp. These are usually found with the cork part missing. Soon following these were other glass lamps that were made with a threaded brass neck for the wick holders.

Kerosene was found to be a superior fuel for lighting although still far from Mr. Edison's wonderful incandescent bulb. In 1793 M. Argand, a Swiss chemist from Geneva, invented a round burner with holes in the side through which more air was drawn against the flame, making it a steadier and brighter light. This burner was an epoch-making contribution to the development of lighting. All subsequent oil lamps made were based upon this principle.

From around 1875 kerosene came into general usage as a lighting fuel. Lamps were made in huge quantities and in unlimited sizes and shapes. Extensively used, kerosene lamps were subject to style and as late as the May 1906 issue of the Ladies' Home journal there was an illustrated article showing "Good and Bad Taste in Lamps." The Standard Oil Company advertised "The Rayo Lamp" in 1907, describing it as being "made of brass throughout, beautifully nickled. Every lamp warranted."

These lamps can be put to practical usage if you collect them today. Filled with kerosene they serve their original purpose when used for outdoor summer evening illumination for your patio, for camping trips, for the beach cottage, or the hunting lodge.

Simple electric "adapters" are available at a nominal cost to convert kerosene lamps into electric lamps. All you have to do is to unscrew the burner and replace it with the electrified one which looks much the same except for the electric cord; even the chimney remains to give an authentic appearance.

The so called "Gone-With-the-Wind" lamps actually date from around the 1890's until the 1920's. Originally called "parlor lamps," they received their commonly used name from their er roneous use in the motion picture of the book by that name. The dates of manufacture seem indecently late for items generally thought of as antique; yet they are obsolete, and so colorful that the ages can be brushed aside as unimportant after a casual mention in passing. Once electrified, these fancy lamps are used effectively with many of the later styles of antiques and have the obvious advantage of giving good light. Occasionally these are seen electrified in both top and bottom; the bottoms, of course, never gave light originally, as that portion was the receptacle for the kerosene.

Besides lamps, there were other forms of lighting, one of the crudest being the burning of certain portions of the pitch pine tree, usually the fleshy roots and pine knots. It is said that Abraham Lincoln studied his lessons by the fireplace to which he added pine knots for extra light. When burned, they give off a bright, clear light, sufficient for reading.



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