Center Draft Lamps
Center-draft Kerosene Lamps 1884 to 1940
Identification & Value Guide
By J. W. Courter
This book is about lamps with a central-draft tube fitted with a flame spreader to supply air (oxygen) to the flame of a round wick. The central-draft tube was a significant improvement in lighting, evident in Argand lamps, Sinumbra lamps, Astral lamps and Solar lamps. Most patentees used the term “central-draft.” I use “central-draft” and “center-draft” as synonymous terms.
The flame spreader is a critical part of burners for lamps in this book and, with a few exceptions, is a perforated thimble design.
I originally wanted to sub-title this book “Rochester to Rayo” because those lamps bracket the time period for my research.
The starting date is 1884 because that year Leonard Henkle received U. S. patent No. 292,114 for a thimble flame spreader. His patent specified a burner with a wick-tube (draft tube) and a thimble perforated to “turn the air in jets against the flame.” Charles Upton bought rights to Henkle’s patents and named Rochester brand lamps that were sold worldwide. Many competitors entered the mar ket during the next 20 years.
An end point is 1940 because that is when Bradley and Hubbard, maker of the famous Rayo lamp, ceased doing business as an independent company. Most cities and large towns had electric lighting by then, even though kerosene lamps were still necessary in some rural areas.
I identify center-draft lamps and their manufacturers, concentrating on American lamps. I primarily illustrate stand lamps with their original burners because many banquet lamps, vase lamps and hanging lamps may not have their original oil pots and burners today.
Center-draft lamps were popular during the “Kerosene Age” from the late 1880s through the early 1900s. Over 200 brands of lamps are pictured and identified. The leaders, such as Bradley & Hubbard, Edward Miller Company, Plume & Atwood and Charles Parker were prolific lamp manufacturers during the 1890s. However, many other companies produced center-draft lamps as well. Companies such as Chicago Lamp, Craighead & Kintz, Meriden Bronze, Meyrose, Shaffer Lamp Co., and St. Louis Lamp & Electric Company are not familiar names with collectors.
The book is organized with brief histories of 50 American companies, lists of selected patents and illustrations of representative lamps. Some 150 companies are linked throughout the book as the history and development of kerosene fuel lighting are “illuminated.”
It is possible to show only a few examples of lamps made by the different companies. My study of lamps and burners, patterns and designs, names, trademarks, patents and other characteristics will help collectors identify and appreciate their lamps. I cannot help but mention achievements made by the inventors and their companies, and I include information which adds to the romance of the era.
introduce the reader to a glimpse of America during the 1890s and the variety of lamps that manufacturers promised to be brighter, safer and more economical. The homeowners’ choices of kerosene lamps were many.
I would be remiss to imply that center-draft lamps were new inventions in 1884. They were not. The center-draft lamp dates back more than 100 years. The Argand “air lamp” was patented by Ami Argand in 1784 in England and in 1787 in France. Development and improvement of center-draft lamps progressed steadily as improved and safer fuels were perfected.
This book, a best seller published by Collector Books in 2008 has been out of print since 2010. Collector Books no longer publishes books on antiques and collectables. The book is 448 pages. Reprint price is $55.00 See our Publications page to order this book.