Much is made of a handful of manufacturers’ interpretations of the task lamp. Some have been highlighted in this blog: Ajusco, O.C. White, Edon, American Fixture Co. and more. These producers adhered to a strict code of pared-back design and unadulterated utility.
Add to this group Weldon Manufacturing Co., a quiet achiever in the brass, drafting-style light arena. This New York company created ranges that included desk, clamp-based and floor lamps.
This example, with a dual-clamp base, maximizes the ease in which the fixture can be relocated. While this feature proved advantageous in drafting scenarios, it was also embraced in workshops and garages alike. Also, the wide, embossed wing nut proved an ergonomic method of tightening the joint around the lamp’s telescopic arm.
At Dorset Finds, we have one philosophy: The only thing better than an extra-large vintage clock is an extra-large vintage clock that lights up! (Come to think of it, we also subscribe to the philosophies that he who hesitates is lost, and there is never an occasion where three-quarter-length pants are appropriate.)
This timepiece, which dates from the late 1940s–early 1950s was likely manufactured by Neon Products, Inc. of Lima, Ohio.
In the 1930s, the Ohio-based advertising sign maker ArtKraft adopted a technique (innovated by the Claude Neon Company, in France) of bending colored tubes of glass and filling them with light. ArtKraft grew rapidly, and with increased demand, a couple of its tube-benders started their own operation, Neon Products, Inc. Neon Products went on to produce pieces for clients such as RCA, Dr. Pepper and Zenith. In addition to creating signs, the company also introduced lines of neon clocks.
This find, measuring 22 inches across, originally hung in John Howard’s Car Store in Somerset, Penn., and was given an update in 1980 when it received a hand-painted addition to the center of the clock face. Other than that, its features remain original and unadulterated. Best of all, the neon is unbroken and the clock keeps good time.
Special thanks to Jeff at Let There Be Neon in New York for his neon clock expertise.
The transition of the drafting stool, from a staple of the office environment to a prominent home decor fixture, has been swift. Its functionality and versatility is unquestionable.
Likewise, the drafting lamp, which historically held its place mounted to drafting and illustration tables, has repositioned itself as a useful tool in the domestic arena.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous of the drafting light manufacturers is Dazor of St. Louis, founded in 1938 by Harry Dazey and Washington University professor Albert Perbal.
During World War II, the company became widely known when the U.S. government selected Dazor’s products to replace much of the costly overhead lighting that had previously illuminated its offices. Not only did Dazor pieces fulfill the much-needed directional light application — thanks to its patented Floating Lamp system — they were also considered the more energy-efficient option in the market. (What? There was a time when the U.S. government was genuinely interested in energy efficiency?)
At the 1938 World’s Fair in New York, General Electric highlighted the uses of the Dazor lamp in its display.
B.K. Elliott (Pittsburgh), the drafting and surveying equipment retailer, touted the patented Dazor Floating Lamp in its 1948 sales catalog as working “like the human arm.” It says: “A strong spring force, acting through a shifting fulcrum and parallelogram on both sections of the double-arm, equalizes the varying forces exerted by the arm, thereby balancing the arm in any position.”
Pictured is the earliest, patent-pending version, which provides fascinating insight into the lamp’s inner mechanism. Later, this section was completely encased to avoid dust intake. It reveals heavy-duty bolts and a large, sprung steel coil, which is the muscle that powers the arm’s reach.
At Dorset Finds we’ve been vocal about our appreciation of the Ajusco lamp. For more that a century, the family-run company, based in Mequon, Wisconsin, has churned out quality industrial lighting solutions. Not only do these virtually indestructible pieces perform the invaluable task of directing light to a specific work area, the patented Ajusco-Loc fixture design, with it’s three-pronged reinforcement, means that even under the most harsh conditions, socket breakages do not occur.
This exceptional pair were cleaned then stripped of their original decaying finish, leaving a desirable matte patina. After being rewired, each light was mounted to solid steel repurposed factory gears. The restoration of these lamps has given them a life of their own. Intertwined, they create drama with almost limitless flexibility of movement.
Here at Dorset Finds we’re always excited to acquire retired factory lamps. If we can find a way to expand on their function, all the better.
The Fostoria light pictured is in remarkably good shape; clean battleship gray paint, clear manufacturer’s label and an unusual anodized switch. The three knuckles are tight and allow for easy maneuverability.
Forming a base to this piece is a construction-grade, steel bracket which doubles as both a writing station – with space for pens and pad – and, as a non-fixed support clamp that can be inserted into just about any vertical shelf or table space.
Here in the U.S., drug stores can be spectacularly confounding. Walking the aisles, one can find vitamins, supplements, bandages, ointments… or speak to a medically trained expert, qualified in dispensing hundreds of varieties of pharmaceuticals. Then again, at the same store one can grab a pack of cigarettes, a Snuggie and a 4 lb. bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Perhaps the business model is based on the consumer abusing one set of “products” and then remedying their ailment with another set?
Here we have a double-sided, lighted advertising sign that would have hung outside a drug store in the 1940s. The casing is wood and the glass areas possess hand-painted lettering that has gradually dried out and peeled, leaving a beautifully distressed window through which the porcelain light sockets can be seen.
This item is currently available for purchase at Modern Anthology.
O.C. White Advertisement, 1936
Industrial lighting enthusiasts can identify a good task light at a thousand yards. Plenty of early 20th Century lighting manufactures created what are now highly sought after desk items but in this case, there is nothing more coveted to the avid collector.
With prices now clocking four figures, the desk light that sees more prospective buyers leaping flea market trestle tables to make a purchase is that of O.C. White.
Be sure, these articulating lamps were not meant to be pretty ornaments but rather, heavy-duty lighting tools that no factory work bench in the U.S. was complete without during the 1920s to 1950s.
O.C. White was established in 1883 when Massachusetts dental surgeon, Dr. Otis C. White patented his first adjustable joint. By the end of the 19th Century the company had become the pioneer in the area of task lighting. In 1939, with the advent of luminescent light technology, the company turned its hand to developing lighting for the stitching trade, hospital floor lamps and physicians examination units. Today, the company continues to manufacture a wide range of lighting out of their facility in Thorndike, Mass.
This example comes with an aged, green shade and original 8-Ball knuckle; the company’s trademark. Though darkened and worn down, the fittings are brass and stamped with the maker’s mark.
The state of the decor solutions you choose is subjective. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that for my money, I prefer pieces that proudly display their wounds; aged, blemished wood, broken-in leather – and in this case – tarnished, stained steel with a marbled patination of chipped mustard, gray, rust, silver, black and green paint.
While cosmetically, this lamp, manufactured by Ajusco, shows its history, structurally and electrically it performs perfectly. The jointed knuckles move easily, the paddle switch works and the original steel shade is dent-free and cradles the light socket like a helmet.
The Rochester, NY-based Bausch & Lomb has been around since the mid-nineteenth century and are best known for their optical lenses. The company is perhaps most widely known for its Ray-Ban lenses but they’ve also been heavily involved in manufacturing lenses for microscopes, cameras, projectors and even periscopes!
With this pedigree in hand, who better than Bausch & Lomb to make an articulating lamp that casts a subtle yet effective amount of light without causing the eye to squint.
The hunt for the perfect articulating desk lamp seems to be an unending challenge. Just as well, it’s a labor of love! So many variations exist across many manufacturers that it can be tough making a choice.
This unmarked lamp, dating to the 1930s is likely a “Localite” manufactured by Fostoria of Ohio. What makes it special is the aged, spun aluminum shade and porcelain light socket. The flat steel base allows for easy placement on a wall, ceiling or desk. Definitely a contender, wouldn’t you say?
The power generated from the firing of 16 inch guns is nothing short of staggering. To put down an opposing ship the size of the Chrysler building, it needs to be, right? Ships, and more so their lighting systems, need to be strong as steel – if you’ll excuse the lame pun.
This ship light has been converted to use a household plug, is encased in thick glass, accented with brass screws and protected by a heavy-duty aluminum cage. Weighing in at over 30 lbs. and a towering 17 inches, this light means business, bitch. So don’t mess with it.
It’s always exciting to find something rare that against all odds, survived the test of time – and the lure of the junk yard – unscathed.
This 72″ lighted red arrow sign was manufactured in the 1940s by the United Neon Sign Company of Los Angeles, CA. and originally hung outside a New York motel. The fact that it was removed from the building’s exterior and stored for several decades is nothing short of miraculous.
It’s been rewired to now run on a standard household plug and once lit, the impressive double-sided rows of 60 bulbs blink in repetition.
Once again, that Fostoria lot have manged to sink their claws in.
Check out this indestructible ’40s task lamp, with a perfectly aged patina to the original green paint. This example also has a base-mounted switch rather than the more commonly seen toggle, at the lower end of the shade. The knuckles allow for good positioning and the manufacturer’s logo appears clearly, in Fostoria’s signature position, halfway across the front of the shade.
My heart has opened widely to the industrial mecca that is…the factory lamp.
War-weary, sturdy and reliable, these industrial lighting solutions clamped to desks and were bolted to walls for decades. The jointed, sectioned arms made for easy spotlighting of a specific workspace while also being able to be pushed away to cast an overall glow.
Fostoria is one of my favorite manufacturers. No, they’re not the most expensive task light, nor the most collectible, but their maneuverability and patented flick-down toggle switch design (rather than a press down or a turn version) really set them apart.
Pictured is a well used, gray steel, factory version which includes a retrofitted magnifying glass.