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Antiques Considered - April 9, 2014

This whale oil lamp was a recent charity bazaar purchase for $175.  It is in excellent condition, except for a slight dent in the metal rim.  The buyer was pleased to support the charity, and asks if she paid excessively.

As whale oil lamps go, this one is a good example.  As to the dent in the rim, the key question is whether a burner can be screwed into the fitting.  If it can, the dent is immaterial, if not and the rim cannot be repaired, then a replacement would be necessary.

Whale oil lamps are the predecessors of kerosene lamps, and as the name indicates they burned whale oil, which was refined from the blubber of whales.  As the whaling industry came out of New England, most whale oil lamps did also.

The most famous maker was the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, which operated from 1825 to 1888, when it closed in a labor dispute. Today the finest collection of their products is in the Sandwich Glass Museum in Sandwich, Massachusetts, which is well worth a visit for travellers to New England.

The company was an offshoot of the New England Glass Company, which also produced whale oil lamps.  The new company resulted from Deming Jarves breaking from his partners in the parent company, and setting up a new operation in Sandwich.   The New England Glass Company operated in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1818 to 1878.  It later moved to Toledo, Ohio, and changed the name to Libbey Glass Company.

As to the price paid for this lamp, it is right on the money.   Collectors keep the momentum going, and whale oil lamps remain popular items.  If this lamp is going to be electrified, I urge that it be done with a screw-in assembly, thereby avoiding any drilling of the glass.  I have seen many fine examples destroyed by having been drilled.

Happy Antiquing!

Commonwealth Antiques & Appraisals, Inc. P.O. Box 35 • Wicomico Church, VA 22579  
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www.commonwealthantiques.com

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