Friday, June 29, 2012

Thrift Score of the Month: Arctic Candle Lamps

I work half days on Tuesdays and, since I don't get vacation time, my hubby uses some of his to take half days in the summer. He meets me after work, we have lunch and then hit a couple of thrift stores on the way home.

A couple of weeks ago I dragged him to three of them. There was nothing at the first, not much at the second and the third wasn't looking so great until I came across these:

To tell the truth, it was the box that caught my attention - that bright tartan and the Scotsman with a cheeky expression is everything I look for in ephemera. I had a bit of a hard time making sense of the objects in the box - they looked like plastic candles with brass lamp shade holders. I looked a bit closer and there was some writing on the shade part.

It's a bit hard to read in picture but it says:
The top of the 'candle' part says:
Green's Patent
Candle Lamp
Patd USA Sept 1 96
I bought them, of course. They were ridiculously cheap - about what I would have been willing to pay just for the box! The first thing I did when I got them home was take them apart:

This is the broken one - the little snuffer part has broken off - but it was the only one I could get apart completely. The main part of it is a tube with a whitish sleeve over the outside and a spring mechanism inside that pushes the candle up as it burns. There is a tapered, rounded cap on the top that has an opening just slightly smaller than the candle and the shade holder just slips on over the top of this. The bottom is textured red rubber over a brass cap that screws on. All in all, very interesting, but what was it exactly?

I tracked down a pair on Ebay - they were not identical but it was a starting point. The ones online were white metal with a sort of tripod on the bottom instead of the rubber bit. Curiouser and curiouser! It took a while but I finally tracked down some old ads for this odd object; it turns out that the company that made them was not "Green's" but "The Arctic Light Company" (I have yet to figure out how Green comes into it!)

This comes from The Geffrye Museum of the Home and there are a few other images there related to Arctic Candle Lamps. This is one of the things I love about vintage - the research and finding new resources. I will be spending a few hours looking through their collections sometime soon!

So, now I know. The rubber end is made to fit into a standard candle holder and the whole contraption is designed to look like a candle and burn like a candle but not to drip wax like a candle! According to the back of this advertisement, the ones I have are the less expensive, unplated version. After reading a couple of ads, I'm still not sure what the white sleeve is made of. I can only assume that it is an early plastic like celluloid - which is a bit alarming because celluloid is highly flammable!

I still need to clean these up before they can go into my Lived In Vintage Etsy store. I'm sad that one of them is broken, but all the parts are still there, held on with very old tape, so it might be fixable. Either way, they are both usable and even come with bits of vintage candles!

I'm always amazed at how a few dollars at a thrift store can provide so much research fun. Here are a couple of other bits I dug up on the Arctic Light Company:

An 1899 photo of the premises of the Arctic Light Company
Another advertisement from the Geffrye Museum
A newspaper ad from the Westminster Budget, January 14, 1898