Rare Antique Amber-globed Brass Skater's Or Hurricane Lantern/mini Oil Lamp
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Rare Antique Amber-globed Brass Skater's Or Hurricane Lantern/mini Oil Lamp :
Brass ("Klondike", "Cadet", "Gem" or other) Skater's Lantern, Ca. 1885-1915, with "RARE" Amber Glass Globe
Brass Skater's Lamp
About 10 3/4" to top of bail handle
About 6 3/4" tall to top of cap
About 3 1/8" in diameter at base
Brass ("Klondike", "Cadet", "Gem" or other) Skater's Lamp with amber glass globe
Similar to S2-8, Far Right and S2-9
With amber globe, rated "rare"
Manufacturer unknown, Ca. 1885-1915
No markings on burner thumb wheel
Excellent condition; one broken vent hole on burner
Probably used as either a decorative or signal lamp
Background & History: There are several remarkably similar little "Skater's" lamps, or lanterns, among which it can be difficult to distinguish. One of these is the "Klondike" shown on the far right in Figure 8 of Ruth Smith's book "Miniature Lamps II"; another is the "Jewel" shown in Figure 9 of the same book. Anthony Hobson (in his books "Lanterns Which Lit our World", Volumes 1 and 2) shows one labeled "Cadet", another labeled "The Little Gem" and a tin lantern labeled "Pearl". We've also seen a lamp called "Little Bob's" (which Thuro, "Oil Lamps: The Kerosene Era in North America" mentions as being frequently found in Canada) and one or more others with unspecified names. These lamps vary in the shape, placement and size of the vent holes in the cap and below the burner and in the shape of the font. Some are made of brass, some of tin and some are found in both tin and brass versions. Without close inspection, it's tough to tell one from the other. (An exception to this should be the "Jewel" shown in Figure 9 of Ruth Smith's book; although her book does not mention it, these lanterns have the word "Jewel" embossed on the top of the cap and sometimes have the word "Jewel" embossed on the glass globe. We suspect that the lamp shown in Figure 9 may not actually be a "Jewel" but may be another one of these very similar and easily confused lanterns. While Smith describes the "Jewel" as a brass lantern, we have only ever seen it in tin. The old Butler Brothers' ad reproduced in the front of the Smith book indicates that the Jewel is made of tin and the Klondike of brass). The lantern offered here appears to be identical in configuration to the Klondike and to the Cadet and the Little Gem shown in the two Hobson books. The burner thumb wheel is unmarked and thus provides no clue as to the lamp's manufacturer or true identity. As for the approximate date of manufacture, we know that the "Klondike" and "Jewel" lanterns were listed in a 1912 wholesaler's catalog. Hobson dates the similar "Cadet" lantern as between 1887 and 1914. (We also found a listing for a Cadet lantern pictured in the 1892 catalog of Pitkin & Brooks, Chicago, wholesalers of crockery, china and lamps). Thus, we'd estimate this lamp's date of manufacture as somewhere between 1885 and 1915.
Skater's lamps are interesting in that their name conjures up rather romantic images of the Victorian era. Several authors do mention them being used by skater's and Hobson suggests that they were placed on the edge of the ice, where the skaters left their shoes (after putting on their skates) to mark the location of those shoes. Perhaps the colored globes (like the amber one on this lantern) served to help distinguish one party's shoes from another's (e.g., "Our shoes are by the amber lantern over there.") With clear glass globes these little lanterns show up fairly frequently (we've recorded almost 1000 sightings of tin and brass lanterns with clear glass globes since June of 2002 on and at various live sales). So, unless we're prepared to believe that our Victorian forbears all spent a good deal of their time gliding around on ice on winter evenings, it makes more sense to think of these little lanterns as general purpose outdoor lights which could easily be carried around and which would not be subject to being blown out by the wind. In fact, Thuro ("Oil Lamps III") calls these kind of lanterns generically "Hurricane Lanterns" rather than "Skater's" Lamps. And Hobson ("Lanterns That Lit Our World, Book Two") describes a similar lantern (the "Pearl) being advertised as "useful for decorating yachts, motor boats, regattas and lawn parties". The 1892 Pitkin & Brooks catalog describes the Cadet lantern as "a small lantern for house use." While many of these lamps were used the way we use flashlights today (in order to see at night, especially outdoors), Hobson points out that the colored globes which were available for these lanterns at extra cost were "to be seen" rather than to see by. That supports their use as decorative outdoor items and as markers for one's shoes at the edge of the skating ice or perhaps, even as some sort of signaling device. That these lanterns were available with colored globes is evidenced by the listing in a 1912 wholesale catalog which offers these lanterns with "red, white [clear?] and blue" globes.
While, as noted above, these lanterns with clear glass globes are exceedingly common (showing up on on average about twice a week), lanterns like this one with a colored glass globe are exceedingly hard to find. In fact, Hulsebus ("The Price Guide for Miniature Lamps") rates this type of brass lantern with an amber globe as being "rare" (see the note below on our use of these ratings in items). And our data supports that rating; over the past almost 11 years we've seen just two complete and undamaged examples of a lantern with an amber globe (one in brass and one in tin) offered on and just one brass lantern at a live sale. That certainly does seem, to us at least, as warranting a rating of "rare"!
Smith reports that the "Klondike" was pictured in Butler Brothers' 1912 wholesale catalog and was priced, wholesale, at $1.75/dozen or $.146 each (that's about $42/dozen or about $3.50 each in today's dollars). A similar lantern in tin, shown in the same catalog, sold for $.79/dozen (or about $1.65 each in today's dollars). Hobson claims that a similar tin lantern (the "Pearl") sold retail in 1909 for about $1.67 each (about $42.00 each in today's dollars) although that doesn't sound realistic in comparison to the documented wholesale price of the "Klondike". The Cadet listed in the Pitkin and Brooks catalog sold for $4.00/dozen in brass (about $130 in today's dollars or about $11 each) and for $5.00/dozen in nickel (about $13.50 each in today's dollars). There certainly seem to have been as many different prices for these lanterns as there were models and brands!
Condition of this lamp: This brass lantern has been carefully hand polished and looks much like it must have looked when it was originally purchased. It is in excellent condition, with but a single break in the hardware vent holes below the globe. The fourth and fifth photos (which on first look appear to be identical) are intended to show the little sliding brass "door" amidst the vent holes in both the open and closed positions. The break between two of the vent holes can be seen in the fifth photo just to the right of the little "door". We believe that this door was to provide a way for the lantern's user to light the lamp by inserting a match without having to remove the globe.
The unmarked thumb wheel turns freely; there is no wick in this lamp.
The amber globe is in similarly fine condition. There are a couple of small bubbles on the outer surface of the glass as you might expect (see the last two photos). Bubbles and other imperfections are fairly common in old glass like this.The globe appears to have been made in a two part mold (two vertical mold lines are just barely visible).
Measurements are provided below the first photo to the left.
This is an excellent example of an old lantern from the early part of the 20th century, one that may have been used to mark the spot where some Victorian ice skaters left their shoes, to add some gay decoration to a yacht or garden party or perhaps to simply provide some light while on the way to the outhouse.
About the Use of Words Like "Scarce" and "Rare"
When we see items which utilize words like "Scarce" and "Rare"--especially when those words are applied to items that we know to be extra-ordinarily common we find it disturbing. We realize that some ers, not having or knowing of a better way of assessing an item's scarcity, use these terms quite subjectively and frequently based on their own personal experience.They simply don't know whether an item is common, scarce or rare. We take two steps to describe the scarcity of a lamp.
First, we only use the words "Scarce", "Rare", "Very Rare", "Very Very Rare" and "Extremely Rare" if the item in question is judged to be so by an acknowledged outside and independent source. For miniature lamps, we use the ratings in Marjorie Hulsebus 2006 edition of the "Price Guide for Miniature Lamps". Marjorie's ratings are also somewhat subjective (they are based on the collective view of a panel of 12 experienced miniature lamps collectors--we were members of that panel), but were at least arrived at independently of the sale or offering of any particular lamp. We don't always agree with the Price Guides ratings but if we disagree, we will still quote the guide's rating and then provide the reason why we don't agree.
Second, since June of 2002, we have collected and recorded data on the offering of over 58,000 listed miniature lamps on and over 5,000 lamps offered at selected live sales (ones which we attended or from which we were able to get reliable data). Every day we review several thousand new items; from among those, we identify the ones that are listed in the standard reference books and record basic information (identifying features, condition, sale end-date, etc.) on each. When the sale ends we go back and record whether the lamp sold or not and for how much. We keep all of this data in an online database and make the database available free of charge to members of the Night Light Club and to others who have requested access. We don't see every listed miniature lamp that's offered on , but we estimate that we see more than 85-90% of them. When we quote the Price Guide's scarcity rating for a given lamp, we generally also provide information, from our database, on the number of times during the period we've collected data that we've seen that lamp offered on . And it's this data that allows us to substantiate, refine or, at times, to respectfully disagree with the rating in the Price Guide.
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