At the turn of the 20th century, light was still considered a somewhat supernatural commodity. Edison’s light bulb remained a work-in-progress, and the grid to power his new invention barely existed. Thus, a product that would provide users with safe, predictable, and economical illumination needed a name that suggested nothing short of a miracle, like the one that surprised a young lad in a cave, as told in the famous Middle-Eastern folk tale about a boy and his magic lamp. Thus, in 1908, Aladdin Industries Inc. was born.
Founded as the Mantle Lamp Company of America, A...laddin was one of the first U.S. companies to manufacture a kerosene lamp that produced incandescent light by heating a mantle, which is a small piece of cloth that’s been soaked in a variety of metal oxides. The mantle would be heated until it was white hot and glowed, and unlike other fuel lamps of the day, the Aladdin lamp did not require pumping to keep the fuel tank pressurized, it produced no smoke or odor, and the light source itself did not flicker.
The Mantle Lamp Company actually started out selling Practicus table lamps imported from Germany, but by 1909, it had introduced its first Aladdin lamp, which quickly made the company famous. Aladdin’s earliest lamps had tall glass chimneys and brass- or nickel-plated bases. The first few models went unmarked, but beginning with Model 5 in 1913, the model number was stamped on the lamp’s wick-raising knob. Of the early models, the first lamps made between 1909 and 1910 are the toughest to collect, but the Model 2 lamps made between September and December of 1910 are actually fairly common. Also tough to find are Models 3 (1911 to 1912) and 10 (1921 to 1922).
In 1919, Aladdin began to diversify its product line, producing thermoses and other domestic items that would eventually lead to its dominance of the school-lunch-box market in the 1950s. But more important to lamp collectors was the purchase, in 1926, of Lippincott Glass. This acquisition allowed Aladdin to manufacture its own chimneys, lampshades, and bases, whose designs are still considered classics of the form.
The vase kerosene lamps from 1930 to 1935 are among the most collectible.
By 1956, Aladdin had made its last electric lamps. The company continued to manufacture kerosene lamps in the United States until 1963, when brass bases began to be imported from England. By 1977 all manufacturing had moved to Hong Kong, and in 1999, Aladdin Industries sold its legendary lamp division to a group of investors, who renamed their business Aladdin Mantle Lamp Company and continue to produce non-electric Aladdin lamps today.
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