Antique Blue Opalescent Thousand Eyes Miniature Oil Lamp, S1-510
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Antique Blue Opalescent Thousand Eyes Miniature Oil Lamp, S1-510:
Antique Blue Opalescent "Plain Windows" or "Thousand Eyes" Miniature Oil Lamp by Hobbs Glass, Ca. 1890, S1-510
Blue Opalescent "Plain Windows" or "Thousand Eyes" Night Lamp, S1-510
About 8 1/2" tall overall
About 4 1/2" tall to top of collar
About 2 3/4" in diameter at base
Blue Opalescent "Plain Windows" or "Thousand Eyes" Night Lamp
Manufactured by Hobbs Glass Co, Ca. 1890
Patent dated "Taplin-Brown" collar
Nutmeg style "Wide Awake" burner
Produced using patented process for creating opalescent glass
Background & History: This antique art glass lamp has been definitively attributed (by several authors including McDonald in "Evolution of the Night Lamp") to the Hobbs Glass Company of Wheeling, West Virginia and is dated at around 1890 (based on a Hobbs 1890 catalog). The lamp is pictured both in McDonald's book (pages 57 and 76) and in Figure 510 of Frank & Ruth Smith's "Miniature Lamps" with a matching shade. It is found in clear opalescent glass , blue opalescent glass (like this example) and cranberry or ruby opalescent glass. McDonald calls the pattern of this glass "Plain Windows". The Smiths do not name the pattern but describe the clear dots in the glass as "eyes". Hulsebus ("Price Guide for Miniature Lamps") names the pattern "Thousand Eyes". Both names are used by collectors when referring to this lamp; it is likely, however, that the Hobbs company used neither of these names.
The history of Hobbs Glass (which had several different names during its lifetime, but all of those names included the name of one of the two company founders--Hobbs) begins in 1845 in Wheeling, West Virginia. At that time, Wheeling was not a major manufacturing center and lacked many of the necessary resources (particularly good transportation for getting supplies and sending products to market) to become one. Nonetheless the company forged ahead and grew as Wheeling grew and as markets for their glass products opened up in the South and West. A turning point, perhaps, occurred in 1857 with the discovery of the "illuminating property of petroleum" (The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Sept 14, 1886). The company added lamps to their product line and could barely keep up with the demand for them. By 1886, the company had become the largest glass making company in the country, employing some 650 people and shipping some 400 carloads of glass goods all over the U. S., and to "Cuba, South America, Australia and Europe" (op. cit.).
Opalescent glass was a specialty of the Hobbs company. Prior to 1886, opalescent glass was manufactured using a complex, slow and costly process: an appropriate mixture of glass was first blown into a ball-shaped mold the surface of which had indentations; once removed from the mold, the ball of glass with protrusions on its surface was allowed to cool and was then reheated to red-hot. Because the protrusions on the surface of the ball cooled more quickly and to a greater degree than the main body of the ball, the reheating caused the protrusions to whiten, or become semi-opaque. The now-opalescent ball of glass could then be blown into any desired shaped by a skilled glass-blower. In 1886, William Leighton, head of the manufacturing department of the Hobbs Brockunier Glass Company and William Russell, patented a simplified and improved process for creating opalescent glass products (search for patent number 343,133 at www.google.com/patents). Under the Leighton-Russell patent, a mold was created as close to possible as the desired final shape of the object. The surface of the mold was indented to allow for the formation of the desired nodules or projections. Molten glass (of an appropriate mixture as to color) was pressed into the mold and then removed. The resulting object was cooled quickly with a blast of cold air and was then reheated. As in the original process, the protrusions on the surface of the object resulting from the indentations in the mold having cooled more quickly and more fully than the body of the object, turned the desired whitish color. This improved process eliminated the second molding or shaping step and thus allowed for quicker and something closer to mass production of opalescent glassware without the need for highly skilled glass-blowers.
An article in The Glass Encyclopedia expands on the above process description adding that this type of opalescent glass was made of two layers of glass with the thin outer layer--which fills the indentations in the mold-- being made of a heat sensitive glass which turns milky-white on reheating. The inner layer of glass, on this lamp, was made, obviously, of a light blue glass.
In order to create this lamp yet another step was required; a crystal clear stem and foot had to be made and then fused to the bottom of the opalescent font. This joining of the stem/foot to the font was a manual process requiring a good deal of skill. The resulting lamp was truly a triumph of the glass making art of the late 1800s. Note that the clear glass stem and foot of this lamp fluoresces, or glows, when viewed under "black light". This phenomenon, which is explained in more detail in the note below, is caused by the use of manganese as a clarifying agent in the making of clear glass and indicates that the glass was made sometime before about 1915.
While Hobbs made huge amounts of glass, these little opalescent beauties were apparently only made in small quantities. We believe that's why these lamps are relatively hard to find. Since June of 2002, we've only seen 2 complete examples of this lamp, and 11 bases without a matching shade, like this one, offered on .
Condition of this lamp: This example of the lamp is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks or other damage.
This lamp has a dated brass "Taplin-Brown" collar which is embossed "PATD APR 13 1875 MCH 21 1876". These dates refer to two patents issued on those dates (one to George Brown and one to Alvin Taplin) relating to the process used to stamp the collars from sheet brass.The Brown patent is reproduced in the appendix to the first Smith book. The collar, along with the burner has been polished. The collar is in fine condition with no splits, cracks or dents and is tightly affixed to the font.
A Nutmeg style burner screws tightly into the collar. Based on the tear-drop shaped vent holes and the flower petal thumb wheel, we identified this burner as a "Wide Awake" burner from a page in an 1889 wholesaler's catalog (George F. Basset & Co of New York) where it is pictured and labeled; in 1889 these burners sold wholesale for $1.75/dozen. The Basset catalog is reproduced in Volume 3 of David Broughton's "Historical Lighting Reprints". The burner thumb wheel turns freely; there is no wick in this lamp.
As shown in the photos, the lamp comes with a clear glass chimney. The edges of the chimney are rough cut. The chimney is in fine condition.
Measurements of this lamp are to the left underneath the first photo.
This is a quite good example of a hard to find miniature oil, or night lamp made in the 1890s by one of the truly fine glass companies of the period. Please check our listings for the cranberry and clear variations of this lamp.
[Note that this week we are also offering a cranberry and a clear variation of this lamp on ].
Fluorescence in Old Clear Glass
Manganese dioxide (MnO2), found naturally as the mineral Pyrolusite, was used by by glass makers, as far back as ancient Egyptian and Roman times and up until about 1915, as a decolorizing agent in order to make clear, colorless glass. The natural material used to make glass contains iron impurities. These impurities impart a coke-bottle green (and sometimes brown) color to the glass. Manganese dioxide, added to the molten glass mixture, neutralizes the coloring effects of the iron impurities. Adding manganese to glass has a side-effect of which we doubt old glass makers were aware. While not itself fluorescent, manganese activates fluorescence in other elements or compounds. Clear glass which has had manganese dioxide added to it will glow with a green or yellow-green color when viewed under long wave ultra-violet ("black") light. This fluorescence turns out to be a useful test of the age of clear glass. The United States does not have large amounts of naturally occurring Pyrolusite; the mineral has to be imported from places like the Ukraine, South Africa, Brazil, Australia and China. After the outbreak of World War I in Europe, manganese became increasingly hard to get; first, it was considered a strategic war material (it is essential to iron and steel production) and, second, the normal supplies lines were disrupted by the war. And, so, after about 1915, U. S. glass makers switched to other decolorizing agents (e.g. selenium and arsenic oxides). Thus, clear glass which fluoresces (glows) under long wave ultra-violet (UVA or "black") light can be presumed to have been made before 1915. [Incidentally, manganese dioxide is also the compound responsible for the "sun-purpling" of old clear glass; when exposed to short-wave ultra-violet light (UVC) (present in sun-light, or in germicidal lamps) over an extended period of time, the manganese dioxide will impart a purplish color to the glass. It has been reported that unscrupulous antique dealers (especially in the Southwestern U. S.) would intentionally expose old glass to the intense desert sun (or to ultra-violet germicidal lamps) to create this purple color. Purists among glass collectors consider this to be a travesty and believe that intentional or artificial sun-purpling decreases, rather than enhances, the value of old glass items.]
[Note that is can be quite challenging to get an accurate (i.e., that looks the same as what one sees with their eyes) photograph of the fluorescence in the glass. We work hard to get a photograph that looks like what we see, but there is usually some minor discrepancy either in the exact color or amount of the fluorescence. Should you examine a fluorescent lamp under black light, in a darkened Environment, it will glow, but may not look exactly like the photograph we provided.]
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