Antique Oil Lamps and Chimneys

August 7th, 2008

In this interview, Dan Edminster discusses antique oil lamps and glass lampshades (and their manufacturers), and gives advice to novice collectors. Based in Hurleyville, New York, Dan and can be reached through his site, The Lampworks, which is a member of our Hall of Fame.

Dietz “Junior” lamp trade card advertisement

My grandparents were antique collectors all their lives, their whole house was furnished in antiques. They had a lot of oil lamps and I suppose that’s where I got my first interest. I’ve always had more of an interest in the glass lampshades than the lamps but it kind of just evolved into lamp collecting instead of glass, and not pattern glass per say, just colored glass.

I started out collecting miniature lamps and built up a collection of maybe forty, nothing high end, just mid range collectibles, then I got into hanging lamps, especially hanging hall lamps. But it got to the point where I had too many hanging around the house and so I started selling more than buying.

I’m particularly interested in patent research right now, and especially Holmes, Booth and Haydens. I’ve always been interested in their stuff, because they had a lot of diversity in the burners they made. I like the less run of the mill, mass-produced manufacturers. And I’ve always been interested in the parts, that’s always been my niche. I started buying any lamp parts I could find 12 or 15 years ago to complete my own lamps and at that time it was quite easy to find boxes of parts in antique shops. But as things switched over into multi-dealer shops, parts became more scarce. Originally I didn’t sell parts, but then I ended up getting so many I decided I might as well sell them.

The high-end collectors are very interested in rare burners and chimneys. All my research has evolved around the manufacturers of burners. It’s always been about a burner I found, I would start to do research on who made it and it kind of went from there.

Collectors Weekly: What’s the difference between hand made and machine made chimneys?

Edminster: The earlier lamp chimneys were all hand blown, free-form, and finished by glass blowers. At some point they introduced molds to get a consistent form, but they were all still blown by hand. Later the whole process was mechanized and they were all done by machine. There are some mold-blown chimneys with embossed patterns that are quite scarce. But by and large, the hand done stuff with the peddle tops and frothed or etched designs (which doesn’t necessarily mean it was hand blown), that early and limited production stuff is much more scarce and in demand.

Most novice collectors haven’t really formed a definite focus for their collection, they just start out collecting lamps. You just go to a flea market and see lamps you love and then you start to see a few more lamps and think they’re neat and they have common burners and common chimneys, just plain jane lamps. But as you start to research and read some books on lighting, you tend to kick up your collection and start looking for more scarce burners and chimneys or some color glass examples.

Collectors Weekly: What can you tell us about the different types of burners?

Edminster: The burner was the device that took the fuel and was the point of combustion. It evolved over many centuries, but the design is generally the same. It’s simple, a piece of brass molded into some form to hold a wick, and a chimney, which protects the flame from the air and aids in combustion by creating a draft.

Cut glass jewel lampshade

I’ve always been attracted to earlier models because I thought they were better constructed or heavier. A lot of them were cutting edge at the time so the earlier designs set the pace and there really wasn’t much improvement to be made. Anything that’s really unusual or rare peaks my interest, especially stuff I’ve never seen before. I’ve been collecting for 20 years and I see new stuff often enough, sometimes on eBay, it never ceases to amaze me.

That’s one of the neat things about the Internet, you see stuff you never would have seen in your lifetime, unless you traveled the circuit of the big lamp and glass auctions. Rare burners hardly ever came into the market place in local shops. The internet has also driven the price way up. The lower end things are driven lower and the higher end things are driven higher.

Collectors Weekly: How did you pick the lampshades to display on your site?

Scarce cranberry petticoat hanging lampshade

Edminster: Back in the day, many lamps were sold so you could customize them. You could walk into the lamp shop and buy a complete lamp off the floor or you could buy the base and the trimmings separately. So-called “Gone With the Wind” lamps, with the base painted and the shade to match, those were sold as-is, but the banquet lamps maybe had a brass base, and you could put any type of shade on it. With the hanging lamps, if you wanted prisms on them, you could get the crystal clear prisms or the colored ones to match the shade.

Collectors Weekly: Tell us more about the glass shades… who made them?

Edminster: Most of them made the metal parts and bought glass from other companies. For example, Holmes Booth and Haydens would sell lamps in their shop and make the base and the burner, and buy the glass shades from glass companies like Fostoria or Consolidated.

Blue hobnail glass lampshade with crimped rim

There were the plain opal shades made with milk glass, which was pretty utilitarian and inexpensive. Then there was the case glass, really like an overlay, two different layers of glass, with the inside white to reflect more light and the outside colored, you see the green and white combination quite often. There were different types of art glass shades, satin glass, amberina, cranberry, and mother of pearl. Those shades were more expensive back then and those are the shades that command the high prices today.

There were different types of paper shades, like the lamp shades you can buy today for an electric lamp, smooth and silkscreened or lithographed, sometimes pleated or made out of cloth. There were shades made out of metal, really just about any kind of material. Paper shades aren’t as durable from a collectors standpoint, and wouldn’t command some of the prices of an art glass shade, but if they survived this long, they’d be worth something.

Collectors Weekly: Do you come across reproductions often? How do you spot them?

Newell patent whale oil burner with mesh cage to prevent explosion of flammable gases

Edminster: With experience, handling a lot of lamps, doing a lot of research, and talking to a lot of people. There are certain characteristics of glass that help you distinguish old from new. Sometimes just the feel, the look, the thickness, the way it was molded, the colors can tell you a lot. There’s some stuff on the market today made in the style of the old lamps, not the same molds, but reproduced very similarly and made in colors that weren’t produced back then, some shade of red or blue. The same goes for fake metal parts, which are pretty easy to tell because the repros are mostly all marked. It really comes down to handling hundreds of pieces and I’m sure I’ve bought stuff over the years that was newer and not realized it. Buyer beware.

Collectors Weekly: Do you focus on a specific geography?

Edminster: I only collect from American manufacturers, unless I got something that’s foreign made in a box lot of stuff or on a lamp I purchased. I don’t have anything against them, I just never did much research on the foreign lamps. But there are plenty of manufacturers in England, France, Germany, it’s out there and just as old as the American made stuff.

“Art glass lamp shades included satin, amberina, cranberry, and mother of pearl.”

Most of the manufacturers I research were located on the East Coast in the Connecticut area. New England is where the heart of the manufacturing took place in the United States. Most of the glass manufacturers were on the eastern seaboard, which is one of the reasons most of the lighting seems to be a little more prevalent here than on the West Coast. Manufacturers had stores in all the big cities, Boston, New York, Chicago, so everything was readily available around here.

Collectors Weekly: Are there a lot of lamp collectors?

Edminster: It’s hard to say. There are definitely scores of people out there that collect and spend a lot of money on their collections and have a lot of rare stuff. There are hundreds of people that specialize. After you specialize you start selling and trading up. I’ve never burned my lamps. I’ve been collecting for 18 or 20 years and never bought them to burn them, but there are a lot of collects that do. I’ve heard of someone who heats his house from the heat of Aladdin lamps in the winter time.

Collectors Weekly: What are some good resources for new aspiring lamp collectors?

Burner: Michael B. Dyott’s patent number 37,281 (1-6-1863)

Edminster: I’ve amassed quite a collection of books, I think I own every book that was written on oil lamps and collection. I have hundreds of books and catalogs, some original and some reprinted. And then there’s the Internet.

There’s a network of collectors out there who are willing to share what they have and that’s the nice thing about a lot of collectors, they’re willing to trade information. I’ve been a member of the Historical Lighting Society of Canada and the Rushlight Club for a number of years and you can get a lot of information from their publications. Those two are probably the two premier lighting clubs because they focus on lighting in general, but they also focus on kerosene lighting which is what I do. I don’t get into gas or electric.

The Rushlight Club spans all types of lighting, from kerosene to bicycle lights, really any type of illumination. A lot of heavily researched articles, newsletters, and old lighting catalogs, have come out through Rushlight. I think it’s important if you’re collecting to join the club because you’re going to be able to network with like minded people. They give you a members list with collecting interests, so if you collect whale oil lamps you can look through the list and find who else is collecting the same thing. Give them a call, they’re really good people, willing to share their knowledge.

(All images in this article courtesy of Dan Edminster at The Lampworks)

32 comments so far

  1. paul russell Says:

    I have an oil lamp two handled called a wedding lamp. I BOUGHT THIS LAMP 15 YEARS AGO.THE ORIGINAL OWNERS CHILDREN ARE STILL LIVING.I THINK IT MAY BE THE ONLY ONE LEFT OF IT”S KIND.MADE BY THE P&A CO.OF CONNETICUT.DATED AROUND 1900 TO 1920.I SAW A PRICE OF A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT ON THE NET.IF SOMEONE COULD TELL ME IFIT IS THE ONLY ONE I WOULD APPRECIATE IT.I COULD SEND PICTURES.

  2. kay Says:

    I have a slag lamp that has been in my family for many years. The base has a mark as follows. It is a cross with a Double orb. The inside orb has either an 8 with a line through it but I think it is a reverse B and B. I would like to identify the mark…any suggestions?

    Thanks,

    kay

  3. Joy Smith Says:

    We have a lamp that has been in our family for over 85 years…I have a picture of it and can email it to you if you want. This lamp has two large round globes, one on top of the other and has an Indian painting on it. Please help me identify this lamp. Thanks,

  4. Wanda Eilts Says:

    Have chandelier of 1900 – 1920 . Was hanging in an opera house in Hopedale, Illinois which was constructed in 1898. Has original electric wiring, heavy brass chain approximately 24 inches long. Is 23 inch diameter, 16 petal shaped panels with an eight tulip border on top of panels. Has leaded edging whish looks like lace. Is carmel colored slag glass or posswibly celluloid??? When you tap it, it sounds like plastic, not glass. It is smooth on the outside but textutred on the inside. Can you help identify? Will send any more information needed or picture. Thanks….Wanda

  5. Irv Knickerbocker Says:

    Hi I have a pair of oil lamps with castiron wall brackets and lamp holders all painted gold. They have the reflectors. The only markings I could find was Eagle on the lamps. could you give me some information and value if possible Thank you Irv

  6. Faye Dillard Says:

    I have part of an aladden lamp that was my Grandfather, My father and now
    I have it. It has a white milk bowl with a black stand. It was made in chicago, ill and says patent pending. mantle ladden co NU-TYPE Model B
    Could you give me some information and value if possible
    Thank you
    Faye

  7. Linda Allen Says:

    I have two oil lamps,Dad always called them aladdin lamps. Neither one has the mark of Aladdin. One of the lamps has a eagle, not the name eagle, but a eagle imprint raised from the brass. Could you help me identify this lamp?

  8. Christy Says:

    I have a lamp that sits on a base with a long white pedistle that extends up to what looks like glass hollow bowl that has gold painting and pink delicate flowers on the outside. It has 9 very long arrow shaped crystals that hang from the bowl down the pedistle. I can’t seem to find a name anywhere on this lamp. It has been in our family for 80 years or more. It belonged to my grandmother , aunt and mother. Could someone help me identify this lamp or lead me to a website with photos? Thank You

  9. Judy Says:

    I have a lamp which belonged to my mother that I figure to be between 90 and 100 years old. It is a bulb out of which sprouts a stem bearing an open daylily, one bud and several long “drooping” leaves. The petals and bud are opaque , whitish leaded glass. The rest of the material appears to be black metal, but when I started to clean a spot on the underneath side, it came up shiny, so I think it may be brass. The spot bears the name HANDEL with No 1383 underneath. I’m just beginning my research and could use any help I can get. Is there a catalogue of old Handel lamps? Any information would be greatfully appreciated. Thanks.

  10. Corinne W. Says:

    I have an old lamp that I got from a lady who would be over 100 yrs. old if she were alive today. I seem to recall that she got it the 1930’s. It is a NU-TYPE, Aladden, Modle B, Patients Pending, from Mantel Lamp Co., Chicago, Ill. USA. Glass chimminy is entact as is the bass which is a creamy color. The whole thing is about 30″ high. I would like to sell it but would like to know what it is worth. Thanks !

  11. Stu Lockrow Says:

    My grandfather George Lockrow was an artist and at one time head of design with Handel Lamp Co. of Conn. He had an autograph book with watercolor pictures and verses by some of the artists. ( Broggi,Runge,Parlow, Palme, Hugo,Lewis ) All dated in 1921. Also a note from my father that states my grandfather invented a process of sand blasting lamp shades that saved the company many hundreds of dollars and Mr. Philip Handel offered a reward of “the choice of any lamp in the plant”. My grandfather never accepted. I can not find this fact in any of the many articles that I have found.
    I am 81 and noone in my family wants this book so I wish to sell it. Maybe you can help me. Thank you in advance, Stuart Lockrow

  12. Elizabeth Mayhew Says:

    I have a brass floor lamp with 3 gold colored legs on the bottom. It has b een converted to electric 3 way lighting but originally was oil with 3 hurricane lamps with etched frosted globes and one that is higher in the middle. I cannot find any information on this. I was told it was Victorian, very impressive and I should take it to an auction to find its value. Maybe you could help me with finding one on the internet. I have looked everywhere I could look and haven’t been able to find one like it. Thank you in Advance. Betty Mayhew

  13. Peg Goode Says:

    I have a 36″ tall leectric lamp with 3 small shades. It is a lady with 2 wheat sheaves behind her and three sheaves holding the shaded lamps. She is standing with her arms outstreached. She is wearing a gauzy robe with a rose between her breasts. There are 2 roses on the pedistal at her feet. I believe she is a bronze and I can find no inscription or numbers on her. Do you have any idea where I can get more information about her?

  14. LInda Markham Says:

    I have a lamp we inhereted from an old attic. It has a gold plated base.
    It is green with orange individual leaves on it. Its a keresine lamp with Royal on the top of the lighter Pat APR.30.95 I think it says. I don’t think the glass top is original. Just curious.

  15. keri stevenson Says:

    I also have a 2 armed(hands) wedding lamp that was in my moms shop when I was a little girl. I would love to get information about it. It does not have original globes- they were lost/broken years ago, but the solid brass beauty has never failed to get many remarks…Thanks so much, Keri

  16. caron Says:

    Do you know of anyone who could hand blow two sconces. I have one of the originals, the other,of course broken. If you could give me any leads I would really appreciate it …caron

  17. madeline oeder Says:

    I have a floor lamp that stands about 5ft. It is made of metal with many degins of butterflies and flowers. It has blues, yellows in the degins. The top has a place for three light bulbs. I know it is at least 80 yrs old , and made in Japan. Can some one help me with more history on it ?

  18. debi Says:

    parts. that’s what i like. what is the best show in which to see the fantastic burners and best collections up close. i am still green but in love with oil and kerosine lamps. what is the best club to join also? we all know what great glass looks like, now lets see some amazing burners!
    thanks in advance

  19. John Says:

    I have a table lamp “child’s room” that has a female child in a rocking chair that when the light is turned on, the rocker moves. Also has a “cat” on a pillow that rotates with the rocking of the chair. The other side of the base has a male child sitting on something and playing a guitar. I believe it plays music like a music box. There are no markings. Can you identify it for me?
    Thanks

  20. Cyndee LaFontaine Says:

    I have a table lamp blue to white glass shade blue to white metal stand elec on the base of the light holder is a sticker that states ALADDIN the wonderful lamp. on the underneath of the lamp it says Aladdin MFG Co Muncie Ind. No 4. Can you tell me anything about the lamp. I know that my grandmother had it for years and she was born in 1886 I would appreciate any information you could give me. Thank You for your time.

  21. chris stensrud Says:

    I have an antique kerosine aladden lamp. I have been tryinng to find one like it just to get the value of the lamp. Ot seems to be a drapery desigtn and they do sell the same design today. Any suggestions. Would you like a picture

  22. Lucille Oates Says:

    I have a floor lamp that stand about three feet or four feet,and it had crystal barrels all the way down,each one separated by brass and white rings that I don’t know what they are, and it sits on a brass bottom. Also it has brass arms in two places that from these hang teardrops, it is very pretty.

  23. Louise W Seymour-Smith Says:

    I wonder if anyone can help me with a bronze oil “lamp” I got given? It starts on three cloven feet, rising to three spinxes with a small plinth on thier wings supporting a tree, at the top of the tree is a stork holding two snakes in its mouth, at the heads of the snakes, the mouths open slightly and the chains of an oil burner with two small wicks fits in each. On the oil lamps, near the wicks are the characters CHIALLI. One burner is in the shape of a swan and the other has twin snakes at the front. We can find no reference to this bronze anywhere online. We think it is Italian and anywhere from 18th to early 20th century.

    Thank you.

    Louise

  24. D. Brohm Says:

    I habve recently purchased a brass oil lamp which shows the manufacturer to be “piume and Atwood”. Can anyone give me an estimate of value or any info re this lamp or manufacturer? Would be very greatful..

  25. Melisa Watkins Says:

    I have 2 small table lamps approximately 13″inches in height, not counting the shade which is about 3″ inches short of the base height almost the exact same color too which is off white. The shades have a brown colored leather look string whipped around the top and bottom of shade, and the art on the shade ” kinda golden colored” looks like a shoot off of a firework display,not alot of different shapes, only 1, but different sizes. The base has the same art only it is some kind of plaster with a rough finish,and I think there is metal underneath. Also the whisch firework art stuff is raised and golden color. They are not marked, does any one have any information on these, they make me think of the I LOVE Lucy show, they are plain but neat! Thank you all for any input, and your time, mele

  26. James Snodgrass Says:

    I recently saw a left hand thread, incandescent light bulb. I have never heard of such a thing. Am curious to know.

    thanks

  27. Linda Shirley Says:

    I also have a Brass (with some marble) Marriage Lamp. There are two globes held out by hands and stands on a single base. I first saw one at the Hermitage years ago. I would love to get some information on it. Thanks

  28. Connie Mazerov Says:

    I have a table marble lamp with a marble lampshade. It is 24″ tall. The base of the lamp is a carved ground bird which looks like a grouse and it has 3 baby birds. The color is gray in several shades. Could you please tell me what this lamp is and what it may be worth? It was inherited from my husbands grandfather who was born in Russia – so it might be Russian.

  29. Kathy Ravis Says:

    I have a lamp that my Father gave me many years ago. On the bottom globe on one side there is a piece pipe and on the other is a picture of an Native American Indian to about his chest. He has long black hair and has many different types of necklaces around his neck. There is muted stripes around the globe. There wasn’t a top globe when my Father got this lamp and he had one painted to match the bottom in the muted stripes.( I might add they didn’t do a very good job) I am trying to find out more about this lamp. Can you help. If you need a picture I will try to get one. Let me know. Thanks

  30. Larry Hooten Says:

    What is a ABCO #2 burner? Is this an original antique burner? I cannot find any info on this burner on the internet! Who makes/made this burner?
    I am very near to a deadline to purchase a old amber Zipper Loop lamp with this burner!! I am very suspicious that lamp is a reproduction and not original! I woold appreciate any info on the subject.
    Thanks,

  31. ed Says:

    I recently purchased an electric torchiere floor lamp at a local thrift shop. The light bulb socket is sized for a three-way 100-200-300 mogul bulb and cast into the underside of the base are the words “BEACON LAMP CO”. My search on the internet found no other lamps from this maker but did return some information that there was a Beacon Lamp Company in New Brunswick, NJ in 1897 that filed for bankruptcy in 1898. Another document I found stated that the Beacon Lamp Co. factory was destroyed by fire in 1899.
    How can I verify if this lamp is authentic and, if it is, what would the estimated resale value be?

    Thank you,
    Ed

  32. marilyn Says:

    I have an old hanging gas lantern, i believe it was gas and not kerosene, that my grandparents used. It will be approximately 150 years old. There is a pulley in the chain so it can be raised and lowered. The main part in the middle is a tank reservoir and curving up on either is a neck which is where the lamp bases are located. There is a glass globe and chimney that goes inside the globe for each side. I would like to know what kind of lamp this is. At the present it is boxed and I don’t have a picture for it. I need to replace or have one of the globes fixed as it broken in two pieces. I have heard it is possible to have glass repaired. What do you know about this?


Leave a Comment or Ask a Question

If you want to identify an item, try posting it in our Show & Tell gallery.