Rare Antique Dietz Baby Miniature Oil Lamp/lantern, S2-10
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Rare Antique Dietz Baby Miniature Oil Lamp/lantern, S2-10:
"Rare" Miniature "BABY" Lantern by Dietz, S2-10, Ca. 1879
R. E. Dietz Miniature Oil Lantern, S1-010
About 4 1/2" tall overall
About 2" in diameter
"Baby" Miniature Oil Lantern
Manufactured by R. E. Deitz, Ca. 1879
Excellent condition; chain and ring replaced
Claimed to be the "Smallest Lantern in Existence"
Background & History: The "Baby Lantern", at 4 1/2" tall, is generally acknowledged to be the smallest lantern made by R. E. Dietz, who claimed (in an 1879 ad) that it was the smallest lantern in existence. Robert Dietz, born in 1818, was, perhaps, the pre-eminent manufacturer of lanterns. His various companies had an extensive product line and lanterns bearing his name are still being made (present day Dietz lanterns are made in China). The "Baby" lantern was introduced in 1879 and according to Anthony Hobson ("Lanterns that Lit our World") continued to be made until 1906. Judging from the two advertisements (shown below) which we found for the Baby lantern, Dietz must have been quite a flamboyant character. In the first ad, Dietz apologizes for being unable "to welcome GRANT, to attend the State Conventions, to dine with the President [we assume he meant former President since Grant left office in 1877, two years before this ad was published], or accept the Presidency of the Elevated Roads." His excuse for this was the "immense demand for my popular lanterns"; he goes on to say that he is "exerting every effort to supply 'suffering humanity and their sisters, their cousins, and their aunts' with those sweet little '4 1/2' inch Baby Lanterns."
Dietz further states that after he has "supplied the world with the celebrated TUBULAR LANTERNS, and abundantly sprinkled over the universe my DIAMOND, Vesta, and CHAMPION Lanterns, supplanted Electricity and Gas with the wonderful TUBULAR STREET LAMP, then I propose to go on a RACKET [the dictionary definition that appears to come the closest to Dietz's meaning is "social excitement, gaiety, or dissipation"] to Coney Island or some other place where I can invite EVERYBODY to join me--at their own expense."
In the second ad he claims that he will fire his products from a "A BRASS CANNON" until "the DANGER Flag is raised, and the trade are supplied with Tubular LANTERNS, STREET, SIDE, and SQUARE STATION Lamps, Catch-em-alive and Anti-Cat Mouse Traps." In this second ad, he shows three cartoons: the second is of a baby and a fire-fly sitting in front of a Baby lantern which is labeled "The Light and Joy of the Household" and third apparently defines "Racket"--it shows two men sitting at a table; one is leaning back puffing on a cigar and the other is quaffing a large glass of beer. The caption says "This is what I call a racket".
Setting Dietz's rather flamboyant ads aside, the Baby lantern is really quite charming. It is shown in Hobson's book (on page 107), in Figures 8 and 10 of Ruth Smith's book "Miniature Lamps II" and in Figure h on page 215 of Thuro's "Oil Lamps 3". Hobson notes that the lamp had a "Fire-fly" burner and that it was designed as a long lasting night-light which would burn for 12 hours. He also notes that in the 1880's some experimental models were built which allowed the lamp to be clamped to a bicycle. The fact that Hobson calls the burner a "fire-fly" burner is interesting. A number of Fire-Fly lamps were made by the F. H. Lovell company (which like the Dietz company was located in New York City). One of the Fire-Fly lamps (see Smith II, Figure 65, and the old Fire-Fly ad reproduced on page 9 of Marjorie Hulsebus' newest book "Miniature Lamps of the Victorian Era) has a brass font which is identical in every respect to the font of the Baby Lantern. Apparently Lovell and Dietz cooperated with each other at least at the level of selling each other component parts for their products.
Condition of this lamp: This Baby Lantern is in excellent condition. We can find no significant damage or defect on either the glass or the brass (which has been polished).The chain and ring have been replaced. The tin bottom of the lantern is solid and without rust or holes. The daisy-like thumb wheel easily adjusts the long string-like wick that is in this lantern. The lantern's name "BABY" is clearly embossed on the glass globe. The glass was made in a two part mold. Note that the glass globe glows when viewed under "black" light (see the second photo). The note below explains this phenomenon and how it can be used to roughly establish the age of a piece of clear glass. There are two notches (one at the top and one at the bottom) molded into the edges of the glass globe. These notches help secure the glass to the brass cap and burner. After the notch in the globe is aligned with the corresponding bump on the inside of the top cap, a twist of the cap secures it to the globe; a similar arrangement secures the globe to the burner.
Measurements are provided below the first photo to the left.
Both Hobson and Hulsebus ("Price Guide for Miniature Lamps") rate the Baby lantern as being "rare" (see the note below on our use of these ratings in listings). Since June of 2002, we've seen some 35 examples of this cute little lantern offered on . We'd tend to call that scarce, rather than rare but then again, Hulsebus' and Hobson's ratings are qualitative rather than quantitative. Regardless of how you rate it, this little lamp is truly charming in and of itself. Its very small size might lead one to think of it as a toy or plaything but it was clearly made and offered as a serious night lamp. We feel that the charm of this little lamp is enhanced by Dietz's flamboyant character and advertising hyperbole.
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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 those that are listed in the standard reference books and record basic information (identifying features, condition, sale end-date, etc.) on each one. When the sale ends we go back and record whether it 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.
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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Information for International Buyers
International buyers not using Paypal, please use a form of payment denominated in U.S. dollars. We generally ship items internationally using either the United States Postal Services "Global Priority Mail" or "First Class International" mail, depending on the size and value of the shipment. If we can ship the item for less than the quoted shipping price, we will notify you and refund any overpayment. We mark international shipments as "antique" (when the item is in fact an antique) since most countries do not levy import tariffs on antique items. Import duties, taxes, and charges are not included in the item price or shipping cost.These charges are the buyer's responsibility. Please check with your country's customs office to determine what these additional costs will be prior to offerding or buying. Please also note that the receiving country's Custom Service may cause delays in item's arrival.
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