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

Source: Google News

Bonnard show at Legion paints richer portrait
San Francisco Chronicle, February 4th

A marvelous puzzle of a picture, “Lunch by the Lamp” (1898), layers forms on top of forms with little attention to Western traditions of perspective, so that a child's head, a hanging lamp and a mother feeding a baby all combine into a strange new form...Read more

Idahoans have long treasured books and libraries
Idaho Statesman, January 30th

Book stores, reading rooms and libraries have a rich history in Idaho. They filled an important cultural need and from the beginning were supported by an avid reading public. The City Book Store, located in the Post Office building on Boise's Main...Read more

Annual youth ministry benefit auction Friday
Bristol Press, January 30th

A Victorian Amberina glass hanging lamp from 1860s America, with oil glass lamp. A collection of fine pottery, including Red Wing, Von Briggle, and Door items, and an antique five gallon New Brighton jug. A carved antique clawfoot mahogany table with...Read more

Days Gone By: Jan. 28, 2016
East Oregonian (subscription), January 28th

In the upper story two stoves had been set up and light was furnished by a hanging lamp. The officers declare that both stoves and lamp constituted a source of imminent danger from fire and that, had a fire started, the dancers would have been trapped...Read more

Lauren Conrad's Valentine's Day gifts for lady
Examiner.com, January 27th

LC.com too today works in chic and functional office decor like office space that can function in such tight quarters, and lighting up your work space through any means possible like natural light or copper hanging lamp lights instead of fluorescent...Read more

Review of Botallack O'Clock at The Old Red Lion Theatre
London Theatre 1, January 15th

Under the dim glow of a low-hanging lamp, he veers from dry wit to violent passion, portraying both the hunched invalid and his energetic younger self. He's at times repellant, at others pitiable, but always fascinating to watch. Frost is accompanied...Read more

Piece of Krapp worth a look
The Telegram, January 14th

Samuel Beckett is not the most user-friendly of playwrights, but on a brutally wet and icy opening night at the LSPU Hall, Charlie Tomlinson had the audience in the palm of his hand in the persona of Krapp, Beckett's fixated tinker, seated under a...Read more

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

GREEN LIGHT: Which came first: The chicken, the egg — or the egg carton, or the lamp? 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...Read more