Shedding Light on The PAST
The days of cave dwelling have certainly passed humankind. A generation of Mario Kart racing, Instagraming youngsters illuminate their world with the blue light of electronic devices. Only earth’s eldest inhabitants remember a world where the complexities of lighting a home extended past flipping a switch. In reality, we aren’t too far removed from the dark ages. During the 1920s, 90 percent of Americans in urban residences utilized electricity, in comparison to just 10 percent in rural households. Without electricity, light was elusive. These rustic homes relied heavily on lanterns to brighten an otherwise bleak world. At The PAST Antiques, a collector or historian can find a variety of lanterns, each shedding a unique light on days gone by.
To most, a lantern is nothing more than a portable apparatus used to hold light. However, many variations exist in size, fuel, and purpose. The earliest and most simplistic design was the candle lantern. As its name indicates, these lamps were nothing more than an enclosed candle. While moderately effective, the light produced by a candle lantern was not very substantial.
The solution was the mantle lantern. This design allowed a mantle to be heated which produces light. Several different fuels were commonly used to light a mantle lantern. Early fuels included fish oil, whale oil, beeswax and olive oil. By the late 19th century, kerosene became the primary oil for lamp lighting.
While conventional lanterns were used for personal lighting, lanterns were employed in many different circumstances. As night travel on trains became common, so did the need to light the railways to ensure safety. Signals were sent between trains and their stations, and sometimes were the difference between life and death. Conductor’s lamps, inspector’s lanterns and short-globe lanterns each had their own purpose in ensuring the safety of train travel.
One of the most widespread and well-made manufacturers of lanterns was the R.E. Dietz Company. Robert Edwin Dietz initially designed whale-oil lanterns at the age of 22, but made his name by patenting the first wick burner designed specifically for kerosene. Dietz brand became a mainstay of the lantern industry and an innovator of automotive lighting. Dietz was a popular brand in all capacities, but three of the most popular models of lanterns they produced were the Blizzard, Monarch, and Little Wizard. All three of these lanterns can be found among The PAST Antique’s extensive collection.
Aside from a wide variety of Dietz lanterns, The PAST Antique Marketplace showcases many brands including Boston and Albany, Adams & Westlake and Coleman. Our collection displays the unique features, and advances that brought light to an otherwise dark world. While visiting, be sure to explore the Gateway Museum, which showcases the progression of technology over time. Headlined by a functional printing press, The PAST Museum allows visitors to interact with industries of days gone by.
(Disclaimer: exhibits utilize modern lighting technology. The magnitude of the museum and the difficulty of obtaining whale oil made lantern illumination impossible. We apologize for the inconvenience.)