Rare Antique Dietz Baby Miniature Oil Lamp/lantern, S2-10 For Sale
Miniature "BABY" Lantern by Dietz, S2-10, Ca. 1879
R. E. Dietz
Miniature Oil Lantern, S1-010
About 4 1/2" tall
About 2" in
Manufactured by R.
E. Deitz, Ca. 1879
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
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".
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
this lamp: This Baby Lantern is in excellent condition. We can
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
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
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About the Use of
Words Like "Scarce" and "Rare"
When we see items which
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
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.]
Our objective is to have happy, satisfied customers. We will work with
you to satisfactorily resolve any problems.
Feel free to ask any questions prior to offerding. We try to
answer all questions promptly. Just click on 's "Ask seller a
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All items are sold "As Is". We do our best to describe
all items accurately. However, mistakes and oversights can occur. Returns will
be accepted within 14 days if item is found to be not as described. In general
refunds will be given as money back and will include the original offer amount
and initial shipping costs (but not the return shipping cost). Refunds will be
given once the item is received and verified to be in the same condition as
when it was sold.
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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.
duties, taxes, and charges are not included in the item price or shipping
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