Posts by Bo Sullivan (page 4)
A pretty chandelier is just a pretty
Sure, it can be. It can also be much
more than that... a font of compelling stories about who we are, where we came
from, and where we might be going. My job is to find those stories. And not
just the Who/How/When facts, but the deeper connections as well. Why was something
made? What came before it and what made it obsolete? How did people utilize it
in their homes? How was it related to popular style and manufacturing trends?
Where did those trends come from and why did they end?
You won't find many companies with a
passion like this. We believe these stories help us make better quality
products that can be more useful and meaningful to our customers. So how does
this research happen? Over more than a decade, Rejuvenation has assembled an
exceptional research library consisting of more than 2,000 original trade
catalogues, plan books, sales samples, and other rare materials related to lighting,
hardware, and the building arts. It's like having your grandparents and
great-grandparents right there in the room with you (some of those old books
even smell like them).
For me, an old house part can be a
touchstone for our collective history. In the same way that a broken fragment
of a hologram reveals its own unique view of the whole original, each piece of
an old house – a sash lock, a sink faucet, a door, a moulding, a light shade –
carries within it the stories of the houses and times it came from, a
connection as deep as DNA.
However, old house parts have their
own special stories to tell that transcend the period of their origin, too – stories that take on rich and lively new
meanings in new contexts, as experienced by new generations. This is what makes
my job so fun. I live at the intersection of the past, the present and the
future, where all three inform, inspire and infuse each other.
After graduating college with an
architectural degree, I spent several years doing carpentry work on old houses
around the country, which is how I first learned about Rejuvenation. Joining
the company in 1993 as a retail sales associate, my past lives here have
included salvage manager, hardware and plumbing merchant, senior designer, and
copywriter for the company’s catalog and website. I now manage the company's
research library, and give classes and presentations on old house lore,
focusing on American lighting, hardware, plumbing, millwork, wallpaper and
residential design from 1870 to 1970.
Two truths and one lie about Bo:
- I once performed a didgeridoo
solo for the Company Holiday Party
- I once bowled 286 at the Company
- I once re-created a Mardi Gras
parade for the Company Holiday Party
While our homes and lighting styles have changed over time, the basic idea hasn't.
Around here, we often toss around the names of lighting styles as if everyone in the world were as fascinated with old fixtures as we are… forgetting that the difference between Classical Revival and Colonial Revival isn’t a matter of daily concern to most folks. (I know, shocking isn’t it?)
To remedy this state of affairs, I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at some American period lighting styles and give them a little context. So this is your introduction to a series of posts called A Century of Lighting: 1870-1970.
There are many ways to slice and dice lighting history. To keep it simple we'll use these six basic style groups. Rarely were fewer than three major trends competing for market favor between 1900 and World War II.
For consistency’s sake, we’ll explore each of our six style groups using the same format, drawing upon authentic period images from our extensive research archive.
Typical Period Houses & Interiors
Lighting Examples from Sears & Montgomery Ward Catalogues
Lighting Examples from Higher-End Lighting Catalogues
Specific Sub-styles within each Style
Some Rejuvenation Reproductions
For those who like the smell of old paper, our research archive of nearly 3,000 period books and trade catalogues is like dying and going to old-house heaven - or at least to its library.
So that’s what’s coming in the days ahead about the days past – stay tuned for Victorian, our first installment.
Often lumped together into one "fancy" style, you might be surprised at 30 years of changing Victorian trends...
We’ve recently introduced a new wall bracket called the Reed.
While we’ve offered “swing-arm” fixtures for some time now, such as the Turner, Halfway, Bend and Ford’s Mill, the Reed is distinguished by its unusual degree of articulation – three adjustable knuckles PLUS a swivel joint at the canopy allow for an unparalleled range of motion.
Articulating fixtures were a mainstay in early industrial settings, and numerous manufacturers had catalogs chock full of all the lighting components needed to make designs tailored for any given task – sockets, swivel joints, threaded tubes, canopies, shades and such. The Reed is typical of an assembly that would have been created from these standard parts.
Here’s a little more background on the Reed and period lights like it.
The Reed is inspired by multi-knuckle swinging wall brackets like this Faries Model 3325 from 1920. Sorry, we can't sell you one of these for $2.40, but check out lots of restored vintage industrial lights on our website.
Faries not only sold finished fixtures, but lighting components, too. This composite page shows parts offered by Faries in their catalogs 26 and 27 around 1918-20. To make the Reed, we basically used these simple and common parts to create our own authentic version of a Faries-type fixture.
Faries took pride in a straightforward knuckle joint that defined their fixtures, affordably made by simply cutting and reshaping a piece of brass tubing. We build our joint the same way, substituting wing nuts for the knob-and-T-handle assembly to make adjustment easier on the fingers.
In 1920, Faries even offered an 8” cone shade, just like our B5629. They didn’t have as many great colors and finishes to choose from though.
Slightly different in the details, the application above is pretty much just the same as you might use our Reed for today (though the typing is probably a lot quieter).
This page from Faries in 1920 shows an articulated lamp on the right much like the Reed, adapted to clamp onto the pipe-legs of an adding machine stand. Perhaps not as much call for this application today?
A close-up of the previous page shows that articulated lights weren’t just for workplaces. Their ability to get light where it was needed made them useful at home as well. For instance, when settling down for an evening’s edification.
On the less industrial side, articulating lights have always been popular as reading lights for bedrooms. These examples are from Faries, and show how fixtures evolved to work on the specific types of beds popular at any given time (in this case around 1920).
Faries was certainly not the only company making articulated work lights – though they are one of our favorites. In fact, these fixtures were quite common. Most were differentiated (and avoided patent issues) by using proprietary joints or knuckles, like the Adjustable Fixture Company example above, from 1923.
To read more about adjustable work lights, and industrial lighting in general, check out my earlier post: Get to Work! A Brief History of Industrial Lighting
Shades of Color, Part 2: 1930-1975
In my previous post, we looked at how color had been used in lighting glass to enhance the style and appearance of fixtures between 1875 and 1930 – from the Victorian gas-light era up to the dawn of Modernistic (Art Deco) design.
The explosion of color and new ideas in the 1930s - at the height of the Great Depression - was so striking, that one catalog page can't do the story justice. This collection of images from 1930s lighting catalogs shows the amazing range of color options on the market during the peak of the Art Deco and Streamline styles. (Rejuvenation Collection)
Color in lighting glass during the 1940s was overshadowed by war and the disruptions it brought. These fixtures from Lightolier in 1948 show painted shades that were about as colorful as things got. (Rejuvenation Collection)
The early 1950s didn't move the dial much color-wise - most colored glass was in the form of softly tinted bowl shades (especially for bedrooms - where they often replaced existing fixtures in older homes.) (Rejuvenation Collection)
Lightolier, always at the forefront of mid-century lighting trends, introduced a special glass in their Claremont series around 1953 that fused fine amber frit (ground glass) to clear or white-painted shades for a sophisticated "champagne" look. (Rejuvenation Collection)
By the end of the 1950s, Mid-Century Modern lighting led the market and colored glass shades in daring angular or organic shapes defined the look. Prescolite offered this series of imported Scandinavian pendants in 1962. (Rejuvenation Collection)
Of course, once a trend has peaked, things can start getting a little wonky or derivative. The 1960s saw the purity of Moderism undermined by the more eclectic and traditional tastes of the mass market, as can be seen in this selection of fixtures featuring colored glass from Moe Light in 1965. (Rejuvenation Collection)
Where should our survey of color in lighting glass end? Well, the 1970s make as good a place as any, when pizza parlors were ruining poor Tiffany's name with "stained glass" lights like these from Progress in 1974. Besides, plastic like the smoked acrylic dome in the center would soon replace glass for shades altogether. (Rejuvenation Collection)
A softly tinted etched shade on a "Lindsey Light" inverted gas bracket, c1908.
Color has always played an important role in lighting, and nowhere more than in the glass shades that enhanced fixtures.
As we introduce our own new reproductions of classic colored glass shades, I thought it’d be fun to take a survey of lighting glass through the years. And because by “years” I mean about 100 of them, we’ll do it in two doses…
Rejuvenation's new Yellow Scalloped Reflector, in the straw opalescent color popular c1905.
SHADES OF COLOR, PART 1: 1875-1930
The images below are drawn from the pages of rare original lighting catalogues, accompanied by a little “color commentary.”
In the 1870s/1880s, hand-painted shades like these c1880 examples from the Meridian Flint Glass Company were common for higher-end gas fixtures. (Image courtesy of Paul Ivazes)
The 1880s and 1890s saw a shift from painted shades to colored and opalescent glass like these twist and hobnail patterns from United States Glass in 1893. (Courtesy of the Museum of American Glass in West Virginia)
The turn of the century brought with it a new and wider range of popular glass types, from the tinted treatements shown at left from Albert Sechrist in 1905, to a myriad of domestic and imported "art glass" types as sold by the Western Gas Fixture Company around 1910 on the right. (Rejuvenation Collection & Klemm Reflector Company)
In 1906, R. Williamson & Company showed this awesome range of glass among its offerings, including numerous pieces in Ruby, Pink, Blue, and Straw Opalescent - otherwise known as Vaseline by collectors today. (Rejuvenation Collection)
Macbeth-Evans Glass Company offered these bold shades at the height of the Arts & Crafts trend in 1912 as alternatives to the more expensive art glass shades of Tiffany, Steuben and Quezal. (Rejuvenation Collection)
While gas was disappearing by 1920, kerosene lamps remained quite common (especially in rural areas) and Pittsburgh Lamp Brass & Glass Company offered these stunning decorated examples. (Rejuvenation Collection)
The 1920s saw a return of the "decorated shade" - where color was less about the glass itself than hand-applied treatments on the surface of it. Brighter bulbs after 1910 made shades like these possible. (Rejuvenation Collection)
Many companies specialized in hand-painted decoration and delicately tinted etched treatments in the 1920s, and few did it better than Consolidated Lamp & Glass around 1925. (Rejuvenation Collection)
By 1930, when Moe-Bridges offered this line-up of wonderful painted shades, bold new color treatments and applied images were heralding the arrival of Art Deco. (Rejuvenation Collection)
Indeed, the spread of the Modernistic style (“Art Deco” was only coined around 1968) would serve to inject a new enthusiasm for color after 1930 – bolder, brighter, and more graphic. Stay tuned for the rest of the story in my next post, Shades of Color, Part 2: 1930-1975
From Steampunk and Edison bulbs to hot new restaurants and trendy stores making chandeliers out of “barn door trolleys” (those are actually hay bale trolleys, for those who appreciate authenticity), it is hard to miss the rising popularity of Industrial Lighting. So, what does “Industrial Lighting” mean from a lighting historian’s point of view?
While 19th-century advances in gas lighting brought very real change to the realm of home and family, perhaps the more significant impact was felt in the world of work. Before the introduction of artificial light, factory operation was limited to daylight hours and organized around proximity to large windows where workers could see what they were doing (like the one guy above). However, with the increased use of gas lighting in factories and workshops in the latter half of the 1800s, factories soon had no curfew and no square footage restraints – the Industrial Revolution was on, and industrial lighting was there to illuminate it.
The Two Flavors of Industrial Lighting: General and Task
The Holophane Company’s prismatic reflectors were chosen based on desired light distribution.
The earliest industrial lighting aimed for general illumination for manufacturing and commercial spaces and maximum light at minimal cost, usually using simple iron or brass fixtures fitted with open-flame burners, sometimes combined with wire cages or glass shades to protect the flame (like our Rockwell). When electricity entered the picture in the 1880s, the forms stayed largely the same, just with bulbs instead of burners. These fixtures often had minimal ornamentation, multiple bulbs or burners and spreading arms (like our Abelard or Kilpatrick), and sometimes a reflecting device using segmented mirrors to direct more light downward (like our Menlo). The key characteristic of general industrial task lighting is efficient and straightforward use of materials and technology and shades that spread light over a wide area.
Large reflectors made from segments of mirror were used for general illumination well into the 20th century.
However, electricity had two advantages over gas. First, electrical lamps could be turned upside down for direct illumination – try that with a gas flame – and second, power could be delivered much more easily through flexible wires rather than hard-plumbed pipes. The result was task lighting mounted near or directly on shop tables and machinery to light the work at hand (cord fixtures like our like our McCoy and Wiley, and swinging brackets like our Bend or Fords Mill). The key characteristic of industrial task lighting is flexibility/adjustability to get light where it is needed and shades that focus the light on a specific area.
The caption says it all about industrial task lighting.
Industrial Lighting Trends
Over time, industrial lighting advanced alongside technology, and each period had its own look and feel – arc lights in the 1880s and 1890s, high-wattage Mazda C nitrogen-bulb fixtures in the 1910s (like our Hood), schoolhouse-type pendants in the 1920s (like our Baldwin or Imperial), semi-indirect Streamline bowls in the 1930s (like our Tessa). RLM-type metal shades with colored enamel finishes were popular for the entire century (like our Warehouse Lights or New Enamel Shades), and fluorescent lighting rose to prominence after its introduction in 1939.
Industrial Lighting Today
Of course, history is just part of the story. Today, “industrial lighting” has taken on a more eclectic life and meaning that has more to do with character and romance than grease and sawdust. Early unadorned, functional fixtures remind us of how beauty can be found in simple, honest design. Classic hard-working materials like brass, iron and glass speak of durability, craft and a job done well. Wire guards and cloth cords renew familiar memories. And at a time when so much technology is virtually invisible or “magic” in how it works, it is both refreshing and satisfying to turn on sockets with turnkeys that click, see bulbs that emit light from glowing incandescent filaments, and choose shades that are shaped, cut, colored and fitted by hand to give another century of dependable service.
What does “industrial lighting” mean to you?
To enjoy more images of industrial lighting, scroll down the page.
Two pages of “industrial” lighting offered by Sears around 1915.
A “holy grail” for industrial lighting enthusiasts – the O.C. White Model 4KK.
An office setting with Faries adjustable fixtures and mirrored cone reflectors, circa 1910.
Two images of task lighting from a 1920 Faries catalogue.
Doing paperwork under a metal dish reflector, circa 1910.