Hanging lamps, which include everything from single pendants to elaborate chandeliers, have illuminated interior spaces for thousands of years. The earliest examples were made of clay and fueled by animal fat. Later, oil was used to fire bronze or glass fixtures.
By the Middle Ages, metal chandelier-like fixtures called polycandelons were hung from the ceilings of churches and other public structures. Some held bowls filled with oil and wicks while others were designed for candles. In fact, the word “chandelier” has its roots in the Latin word for “candle.” Early chandeliers and polycandelons were usually attached to a rope or cable that was looped through a pulley so they could be lowered to be lit, raised into position, then lowered again so candles and wicks could be snuffed.
Gas lamps, which were introduced in the early 1800s, are normally associated with sconces, but hanging gas lamps, called gasoliers, were also used in homes that could afford this newfangled technology. Next came kerosene in 1857. Again, even though we associate kerosene lamps with the chimney-style table lamps made by Aladdin and others, the fuel was also used in hanging Victorian Era lamps.
Because of the heat generated by kerosene and gas lamps, flames were contained by etched glass of various colors—from frosted white to ruby red to multicolored slag—while the lamp’s hardware was typically made of brass. There must have been concerns at the time about the safety of kerosene lamps since they were often advertised as being “non-explosive,” but kerosene lamps burned brighter than gas, so for many the risk was worth it.
While some 19th-century kerosene lamps hung from chains, others were suspended by decorative rods that, in turn, supported a pair, or pairs, of arms. Because kerosene chandeliers required daily maintenance, a pulley was often secreted inside the decorative plate that also hid the lamp’s connection to the ceiling.
As the 20th century dawned and electricity became ubiquitous, many gasoliers and chandeliers were retrofitted. Other types of new hanging lamps included the so-called pan chandeliers, whose light sources were placed at the ends their multiple arms. Then there were hanging lamps that featured Tiffany-like shades over their lights, or clear prismatic glass shades that sent light streaming throughout a room.
The advantage of new hanging lamps, as opposed to retrofitted ones, was that their designs weren't constrained by the presence of fire. Thus, Art Nouveau lamps could be as naturalistic and free-flowing as their designers demanded, while Art Deco fixtures in brushed metal could be accented by shades shaped like bongo drums. By the 1950s and ’60s, the space-age look of Mid-century Modern lamps suggested starbursts and flying saucers, which would hover benignly over nuclear families enjoying meals at their Danish modern dining tables.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Texans Incorporated: The History of a Lamp Company
The Lamps of H. G. McFaddin
Fairy Lamp Club
Gas Pressure Lanterns, Lamps and Stoves
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Hanging Lamps
Source: Google News
Funky lamp balls meet their match at antique mallColumbia Daily Tribune, July 24th
Weeks later, when my husband was in a good mood, I told him I wanted to go back for that hanging lamp because it matched the ones I have. That's when I got the look that said I'd lost my mind along with the declaration that the lamp I found was not the...Read more
Marset Adds Hazy Day to its CollectionDexigner, July 20th
As a hanging lamp, the opal glass ball fades from a sandy matte to a shiny transparent finish at the small curvature that rounds out the lampshade. This detail breaks up the geometry of the sphere as well as highlights the glassblowing technique used...Read more
Estate Sale Roundup: July 18-20: Not snow nor rain nor dark of night can keep ...Austin Chronicle, July 18th
Vaseline glassware; a lot of lamps; Tiffany-style Coca Cola hanging lamp; antique heavy brass bed with mattress; marble-top round table and a small marble top display table. Japanese Geisha Kimono Furisode Uchikake solo robe design; Cash, debit/credit ...Read more
Look to Morocco for luxury décorLas Vegas Review-Journal, July 12th
Look to Morocco for luxury décor. web1_copy_ATHOME-VICKIPAYNE-MOROCCO-1-LA.jpg. Ricardo DeAratanha/McClatch-Tribune News Medea A Moroccan hanging lamp among citrus in a garden. This type of lamp also could be hung indoors...Read more
Jan's must reads: Forget light rail — I want my own closet; top books to ...Austin Business Journal (blog), July 11th
The slideshow of Christina Simon's bungalow in Northeast Austin features a host of quirky combinations from a Moroccan inspired hanging lamp to deer antlers to a fuschia-colored easy chair. I could see spending my afternoon at her art desk, too...Read more
No gilding this lilyOmaha World-Herald, July 9th
In turn, the flower droops just slightly to provide the effect of an ornate hanging lamp — talk about disco decor. Garabrandt's notes show a Turk's cap lily was found in the Knull Prairie during restoration work at Neale Woods, Fontenelle Forest's...Read more
Dead Girls as Objects, or the 'Ick' in LovesickNew York Times, July 8th
“Inside the tiny white house, he sat at the head of the table, listening to the sea gulls, his stare fettered from below by the white lace tablecloth, whose flower-whorled spiderweb knew how to trap his eyes, and occluded by the low-hanging lamp, whose...Read more
Weekly Roundup of eBay Vintage Home FindsHuffington Post, July 7th
Be sure not to miss the Victorian hanging lamp, the Richard Clancey cast iron Labrador andirons, the Chinese silver enamel and jade tea caddy and the large mid-century impasto painting. DISCLOSURE: Editorial selections are made by Zuburbia with no ...Read more