Content-Language" content="en-us">

LIGHTS continued

selected examples of oil light fixtures for dollhouses, 1890-1990

     by Jennifer McKendry   

photography by Jennifer McKendry©

 home page        go directly to gas & electricity fixtures

Although the fuel for oil lamps originated from coal ("coal oil") in the 1850s, by the time of the dollhouses under study the source was petroleum and the name usually applied was "kerosene". As earlier as the 1860s, this product became widespread due to its relatively inexpensive cost and reputation for providing a clean and safe burning fuel. There had been earlier liquid or semi-liquid fuels such as lard (animal fat), whale oil and camphene (alcohol and turpentine) but each had individual disadvantages regarding quality of light or cost or safety. Throughout the time when all of these -- including kerosene -- were in use, candles continued to be used but they became secondary to kerosene. The latter remained the primary source of lighting well into the era of electricity, which could be unreliable due to power failures, and for folks living in areas not serviced by electricity. Oil lamps were a stock product of mail order catalogues into the 1940s.

It can be difficult to distinguish whether a miniature light fixture represents one made to burn oil or gas, as both may incorporate large shades to diffuse the light. Gas fixtures, however, need to be attached to a fuel line positioned in the ceiling for hanging lamps or in the walls for scounces, whereas oil lamps can be free standing (or hung as a chandelier anywhere on a ceiling). Gas fixtures do not need a reservoir  to store fuel, whereas oil lamps need such a font, resulting in the characteristic bulging area between the base and burner. Unlike oil lamps, gas ones do not need chimneys to protect the flame but may have shades to diffuse the light. Gas and oil fixtures direct the flame upwards (unlike electrical fixtures, which can aim the light downwards). Oil lamps have wicks and metal burners but these are often not included in miniature versions. At the most, there may be a cork or brass connecting device between the chimney and reservoir.

(note: "real" in the following means actual, functioning, "real life" items, not miniatures)

below 1899 ad in the Eaton's catalogue, Toronto, Canada, showing the wide range of real oil lamps available by the end of the century; there are:

light53.jpg (192884 bytes)hall (a narrow hanging lamp with the shade hiding the font, burner and chimney),

hanging (with a broader shade for suspending in rooms, also known as a library lamp),

vase (the large font is vase-shaped, decorated shade, sometimes called "gone-with-the-wind" by collectors, sits on a table),

banquet (on a tall stem, sits on a table or sideboard),

piano (a floor lamp with adjustable height, may be an integral part of a table),

bracket (often with a reflector, hangs on the wall) and

glass (or metal, chimney shows, sits on a table)

In addition, there were student lamps (not shown here but included in the 1901 Eaton's catalogue) (font is on one arm and burner on another, height adjustable)


light54.jpg (67709 bytes)

In this 1913 ad from a Kingston, Ontario, Canada, newspaper, readers were assured that they could keep their eyes young by using real kerosene lamps when reading and sewing -- "far better for the eyes than gas or electricity" (note the combined gas and electrical hanging fixture at the top); one suspects the oil companies were posturing in the face of evermore successful competition from electricity


light55.jpg (95508 bytes)


Eaton's ad of 1929 still offering a wide selection of real oil lamps despite the -- by now -- widespread use of electricity (second from the left is an electrical lamp)



light56.jpg (32254 bytes)light65.jpg (60703 bytes)


















The basic oil lamp in miniature: chimney, brass ring representing a burner and font with handle; blown clear glass with a cork positioning the extended base of the chimney in the mouth of the reservoir; it is difficult to find oil lamps this small -- just under 1½ inches high; late 19th century


light57.jpg (42438 bytes)

light63.jpg (114682 bytes)

The exaggerated flare of the chimney top is unusual; 2½ inches high; likely German, late 19th - early 20th centuries

light58.jpg (36989 bytes)

Red glass "flame" above the "burner" (cork); early 20th century

light61.jpg (32266 bytes)





Pronounced brass ring representing a burner; the blue glass font is decorated by tiny shells; clear glass applied handle; nicely shaped chimney; early 20th century; see next illustration for a different colour of font










light68.jpg (115971 bytes)



light62.jpg (39081 bytes)light72.jpg (22207 bytes)







above Plastic and glass oil lamps in a Federal Smallwares catalogue of the 1970s (undated)

right Polychrome glass oil lamp, shown in a Federal Smallwares catalogue of 1975



light60.jpg (45700 bytes)

light59.jpg (47726 bytes)

1946 ad, Chicago, for an oil lamp, the plastic chimney of which unscrewed from the glass font, in which perfume could be stored, a brass handle and bracket represented the burner; the chimney came in various colours; 2½ inches high


light64.jpg (55157 bytes)











light67.jpg (37759 bytes)Bracket oil lamp with reflector in painted metal with a glass chimney; a red flame tops a white wick; the depth of the base represents a reservoir for oil, 1¾ inches high, likely German, late 19th - early 20th centuries

light69.jpg (93252 bytes)













above Lanterns and kitchen lamps, Bing, Germany, 1908



light70.jpg (30354 bytes)light71.jpg (19513 bytes)



left "Hurricane" lamp and porcelain bracket lamp from the 1978 Concord catalogue, an American import company




right above Bracket lamp in plastic, marked "Made in Hong King", 1980s


light213.jpg (99782 bytes)

light214.jpg (147354 bytes)

Hanging oil lamp, glass with metal bracket and reflector, c1900


light76.jpg (75809 bytes)light75.jpg (30446 bytes)















Metal street lights with glass   panes; can actually function as oil lamps, stamped as patented in 1897, 7¾ inches high



light100.jpg (15133 bytes)light101.jpg (28021 bytes)



Dollhouse metal and glass piano floor lamp, German, late 19th - early 20th centuries


Real piano lamps in the 1894-95 Montgomery Ward catalogue; surprisingly, the shades are silk with a chiffon border (top example) and linen umbrella (bottom two); the use of these materials does not seem safe with the heat generated by the flaming wick of the kerosene burner




light79.jpg (46235 bytes)

Dollhouse brass student lamp with glass chimney, likely German, late 19th - early 20th centuries


light78.jpg (108406 bytes)Students lamps: oil reservoirs are separated from the burner and chimneys, the height is adjustable

left 1894-5, real lamps in the Montgomery Ward catalogue

below 1975, brass and glass miniature in a Federal Smallwares catalogue

light80.jpg (43442 bytes)











light81.jpg (30486 bytes)Dollhouse glass and metal vase lamp, likely German, late 19th - early 20th centuries, with nude bust of a woman in high relief


light82.jpg (39742 bytes)


















light83.jpg (26325 bytes)



Dollhouse glass and metal vase lamp, likely German, late 19th - early 20th centuries, a bracket supports the white shade with its elegantly fluted lip, the thumb wheel for raising the wick is represented at the base of the "burner"


light88.jpg (58385 bytes)











light215.jpg (119946 bytes)

Banquet lamp, cast metal finished in blue and gold, intricate Rococo Revival ornament, 4 inches high, old glass globe but not original to this lamp; the thumb wheel suggests an oil lamp but there is no noticeable reservoir for the fuel

light87.jpg (31166 bytes)light86.jpg (44265 bytes)













Pair of white and clear glass banquet lamps, likely German, late 19th - early 20th centuries; 3¼ inches high


light85.jpg (85798 bytes)


light209.jpg (135509 bytes)light210.jpg (102331 bytes)


















Two of three tiny glass oil lamps, c1900, German, 2 inches high; they fit well on the matching small drawers of a Schneegass bureau; the globes can be removed


light217.jpg (105147 bytes)

Tiny lamp, 2¼ inches high, cast metal with glass globe and tube; Victorians often incorporated medieval or Renaissance figures into accessories; c1900, German; there is no reservoir for fuel; it may be a gas lamp meant to be on the top of a staircase newel post drilled for a pipe supplying gas

light204.jpg (105408 bytes)

light205.jpg (37870 bytes)light203.jpg (135337 bytes)












Erhard & Söhne, Germany, ormolu lamp with original pink and white glass shade and clear glass chimney; 2¾ inches high; shown in the company's undated catalogue as #3367 and also in an advertisement of 1913 by the American toy sellers, F.A.O. Schwarz (their lamps were prices from 10 to 50 cents each); the same metal urn but without the ring holding the shade and lowest element of the base is also in the Erhard & Söhne catalogue as an open-mouth urn and as an urn holding dried flowers

For readers interested in products made by the Erhard & Söhne Company, see Swantje Köhler, Ormolu Dollhouse Accessories, Metal Toys from the Erhard & Söhne Company, 2007.


light92.jpg (27401 bytes)





Painted wood oil lamp with thumb wheel, German, late 19th - early 20th centuries; the details of the floral decoration, white and gold trim are compatible with wooden German tea sets (see below); the shade lifts off the chimney; 3¼ inches high










light93.jpg (71859 bytes)


light206.jpg (55900 bytes)light207.jpg (82747 bytes)




















Metal oil lamp shown in the  Der Universal-Spielwaren-Katalog of 1924-1926 (but likely made even earlier) with an embossed floral design and two handles. The metal portion is 2½ inches high. It may have actually produced light, as there is a wick that can be adjusted by turning  the thumb-wheel. Did it light a doll house? The original glass globe with integral tube, shown in the catalogue, was held in place by prongs. The one shown on the right is old but a replacement.

light208.jpg (131654 bytes)



light201.jpg (85270 bytes)light200.jpg (78013 bytes)














left Oil can among the (real) kitchen metal accessories available for purchase in the Eaton's catalogue, Toronto, Canada, in 1895 to fill kerosene lamps;    right toy can labelled "petroleum" with blue geometric decorations on white painted over metal


light89.jpg (135714 bytes)

Bronze and glass real oil chandelier for the parlour, advertised in 1894-95 by Montgomery Ward of Chicago; note the large fonts, upward shades and chimneys


light90.jpg (47292 bytes)light91.jpg (65445 bytes)










right Real oil chandelier in a Kingston house; it has been electrified with large bulbs replacing the original burners and chimneys


above Metal and glass oil chandelier hanging in an American dollhouse; note the presence of fonts indicating the use of oil as fuel, clear glass shades, chimneys missing, likely German, late 19 - early 20 centuries


light95.jpg (37691 bytes)light94.jpg (70741 bytes)













Real metal and glass hanging oil lamp, known as a library lamp, in an ad of 1879 and a real example hanging in a Kingston house (the chimney is missing and the lamp has been electrified)





light96.jpg (38637 bytes)light97.jpg (74428 bytes)












Metal and glass  library lamp with a font, shade and chimney held in place by an elegantly curved, metal frame; German; late 19th - early 20th centuries; 3¼ inches high





light98.jpg (29150 bytes)




Library lamp recently manufactured by Chrsybon, known for high quality plastic miniatures









light99.jpg (67867 bytes)







The "Old-Time Charm" found in these 1967 Miniature Mart lamps can lead to misidentifications of the original models; popular enthusiasm in North America for the colonial past was quickening in the 1960s







N.B. - to continue the story of lighting fixtures, please click here (gas & electricity) 

top of page                   home page t                 return to beginning of lights for dollhouses

               history of dollhouses          GALLERY of IMAGES of dollhouses & furnishings             

  dolls for dollhouses 1        dollhouse         references on dollhouses & miniatures