Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Story of The Aladdin Lamps

I grew up in what was termed, a rural historical town in Massachusetts. Of course in the 50 or so years since then, it has become an affluent suburban extension to Boston. A wonderful community, rich with the history of the Shakers, and beautiful in its landscape . In the years since I left it, one by one the farms of the area stopped producing  and were sold to accommodate the rising need of the upward mobile looking for that perfect little oasis away from the city.

Most of us, as a society have become used to that modern marvel electricity, but living in the 1940s 1950s we often lost power due to winter storms. Everyone I knew still had the use of Oil lamps and my family was no exception.  My Mother kept lamps ready for use, the wicks were trimmed or fresh mantles were ready, and  Kerosene was on on hand. Remember that smell when that lamp was first lit? More than once I remember doing homework at the kitchen table by the steady glow of the Aladdin or Rayo Lamp.To this very day My husband and I keep at least 2 good lamps ready for use if we should lose electricity for any reason.

As the history books relate, more than a 100 years ago, on a rural Nebraska farm a small but creative boy read the story of Aladdin by the oil coal or Kerosene lamp. As an adult, in 1908 Victor Johnson founded the Mantle Lamp Co. of America --the very year my Father was born. More than once I heard his stories of reading by the light of the lamp. In 1909 the Aladdin Trademark was born.  Is it fantasy to think the name came from the stories of Aladdin?

This is an example of an all original Aladdin Glass oil lamp with loc-on chimney that we sold a short time ago.

In 1926 Mr. Johnson bought the Lippincott Glass Factory in Indiana and then began manufacturing glass lamps, as well as chimneys and lamp shades.The lamp shown above is one such lamp.  They became a one stop shopping supplier. In order to merchandise to a wider base, agents were hired to travel throughout the country, demonstrating the product lines.  It was not unusual to leave a lamp with a family over night to make the sale. The term "Traveling Salesman" comes to mind.  Part of his job was also to arrange with local merchants to stock Aladdin supplies. This approach to selling was so successful and had grown to such proportions that by 1928 the company became a totally franchised dealership organization.

The Original headquarters was in Chicago Illinois,  by the 1930s most families had been at least introduced to electricity and the Kerosene lamp's days seemed to be numbered. To keep current with the needs of the
electric customer for the next 15 years the electric Lamp division created unique and beautiful lamps. Most designs were Deco and remain Highly collectible today. During this time the manufacture of electrical units were also being made to adapt your kerosene lamp for electrical use. The lamp I am showing below has such a unit.

This is Aladdin's Lincoln Drape design in Alicite glass and is being sold as electrified, but with an oil burner could be converted back to  be used with kerosene.

In the 1930's a glass Genius and chemist, Henry Helmers,  invented the formula for alacite glass .In the early 30's  he worked for almost every prominent Glass Manufacturer and was responsible for the glorious colors of the old Cambridge glass, Somewhere in the this same time frame he also did work for the Aladdin lamp company and was responsible for their beautiful Alacite lamp bases and Deco electric lamps. Alacite glass has a very soft luster with an ivory and pink tone. The original formula used uranium oxide to achieve this appearance. In1942 the U.S. Government banned the use of this because of the war effort. The formula then had to be changed but retain the same appearance. If you place a piece under a black light it should glow a greenish yellow, if it was made by the original process. It then can be dated to before 1942. On the  Alacite Aladdin lamps the letter A is in raised letters on the bottom.They used the process for both oil and electric lamps.

This is one of the Aladdin beautiful Deco Alacite glass Table lamps. I am always thrilled when I am lucky enough to find the original finial with it. This lamp is for sale,  It can be found by clicking the box on the right.

 In 1949 the Chicago Aladdin Headquarter moved to Nashville Tenn. where it is still located. Competition of lamp Manufacture forced the company to make other items and those are also collectible today. The famous Character lunch boxes with thermos bottles.

If you own, what you think is an Aladdin Oil lamp, look at the burner knob, it should say Aladdin and a model number.

Parts are still sold by Aladdin Industries, but many changes have taken place. Almost all parts are made out of the country. You can buy the  chimneys, mantles and burners, and they are good parts that will fit your lamp.

In 1999 Aladdin industries sold the lamp Division to collector investors . If you have an old original Aladdin Oil Lamp or a 30s 40s table lamp, take good care of this piece of history from a fine old American firm that was built with ingenuity and the dreams of a Nebraska School boy.


  1. Now I'm wondering what happened to our old kerosene lamps. They weren't as decorative as the ones you've pictured, but they served us well. I find this all so interesting. Years ago I switched to rechargeable lanterns and , in the long run, let us down. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  2. Yes Jane, and they still are very handy. We keep several available for use even now. They even make the oil now that doesn't have "that" smell, but to tell the truth I like "that" smell, it brings back a lot of memories.Glad you enjoyed this post.

  3. Beautiful, and informative post. Thanks

  4. Fascinating! I had a lamp that was a kerosene lantern converted to electricity, but I didn't know that conversion kits were sold. I think my daughter has it - I'll pass on a link to your blog! Thanks!

  5. I have heard of Aladdin Lamps but haven't heard of the history of Aladdin Lamps. So, I have come to read your blog attentively to know about the history of Aladdin Lamps. Really, it's an interesting history.