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.


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Recent News: Hanging Lamps

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PUBLIC SALES: French, Oriental bedroom furniture draws bids
LancasterOnline, April 19th

There were 434 registered bidders in attendance. Several items and prices included: cranberry lusters, $210; a marble match holder, $250; a hanging lamp, $260; a large Hummel figurine, $260; two large Hummel figurines, $390; a set of Johnson Bros...Read more

Review: In 'Flamenco Sin Título,' the Many Sides of Olga Pericet
New York Times, April 14th

The stage is undecorated except for a hanging lamp and a chair for Ms. Jiménez, whose lush playing is a highlight of the night. More elaborate visuals come in the form of Ms. Pericet's costumes, which include two sumptuous red dresses: one with an ...Read more

Store Closing in Honesdale After Three Decades
wnep.com, April 2nd

Country Dawn used to have locations in the Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Mount Pocono areas. Now, longtime customers are learning the remaining store in Honesdale will close in May. Country Dawn gift shop employee Joann Ostrander took down a hanging ...Read more

Fine Arts: 4th annual Artists of Yardley exhibit on display
NJ.com, April 1st

It captures the moment in time when a white hanging lamp with streamers hung by an open black doorway casts its shadow on the stone wall behind. This had to have happened for only a short while and, lucky for us viewers, photographer Ed Nyul was there ...Read more

Gujarat's Champions of Kerala Cuisine
The New Indian Express, March 26th

“Being a multi-cuisine restaurant, we have not themed the décor but we have added antique Thooku-vilakku (hanging lamp) in front of one of the columns and two elephant caparisons are hung in the two corners that suggest that this restaurant offers...Read more

Renewed Resources: Recycled-shade hanging lamp
LancasterOnline, February 4th

Recycled paper that resembles the coarse cardboard egg cartons we're all familiar with forms the shade for this hanging lamp found at MoMA's online store. Italian designer Valentina Carretta's pleated chandelier-style lamp, for Seletti, has a...Read more

Hanging Lamp Glows Blue Thanks to Bioluminescent Bacteria
PSFK, October 13th

During certain seasons, in some parts of the world, it's possible to witness ocean waves glowing a hypnotic shade of blue. Keen to share this experience with others, Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen has created a bioluminescent table lamp called Ambio...Read more

Numerouno: A sleek hanging lamp made from cardboard
Gizmag, November 17th

German designer Johannes Kiessler has created a sleek hanging lamp which is predominantly made from cardboard. Dubbed, Numerouno, the eco-friendly lamp weighs a mere 600 g (21 oz) and features a low consumption 21 W fluorescent tube that emits ...Read more