It’s 1780. François-Pierre Aime Argand is working maniacally as he attempts to perfect a new design for an oil lamp. His pursuit of the flame is relentless. He’s driven by the desire to achieve that clean, white light we all want so badly in our homes.
Argand competes with other historical designers in his quest to be the first person ever to introduce electricity into everyday society. His efforts are so successful that many of his designs live on in modern versions and reproductions.
And he finally got it in 1780. He created the first hurricane lamp. The power of hurricane lamps back then was their ability to protect the flame from the strongest winds. Hence the hurricane in their name.
These lamps were a big hit. They were popular for indoor use in homes, and also outside for streetlights and in restaurants. Particularly, they found their way on ships, where they were much appreciated for their ability to light up the darkest and stormiest night.
Nowadays, with modern electricity and whatnot, hurricane lamps are pretty much relics of the past. But many people like to hang on to them because of their beautiful, antique design, and they can become quite valuable.
In this article, you are going to learn everything you need to know about antique electric hurricane lamps. How to evaluate one, how to spot a fake, where you can buy authentic pieces, and more.
So, if you are looking for an electric hurricane lamp of your own, read on.
The History of Hurricane Lamps
Hurricane lamps were invented in 1780 by François-Pierre Aime Argand, the son of a Swiss watchmaker. There was a need for a better oil lamp that could burn more efficiently and produce the clean, white light that people desired, while also surviving the strongest winds.
Argand spent years perfecting his design before finally debuting it in 1780. His lamps were immediately popular, both inside and outside of homes. They were widely used for streetlights, ship lights, and restaurant lighting.
In fact, it was the use of hurricane lamps on ships that led to their name. The flame inside the lamp would be protected from the elements by a glass enclosure, making it somewhat hurricane-proof. This feature made them indispensable on ships crossing oceans and seas during stormy weather.
The first hurricane lamps lighted up with oil. But as electricity became more widespread, these lamps switched over. The classic designs often featured hurricane glass and a chimney, which protected the flame from any wind blowing in from an open window or nearby door.
Over the years, many different types of antique electric hurricane lamps have been designed and released. From brass to bronze, they came in all sorts of different styles, sizes, and colors.
Today, many people still appreciate the beautiful design of antique electric hurricane lamps. And it’s not surprising that these pieces are quite valuable.
The Decline of Hurricane Lamps
Hurricane lamps have been around for a long time. But with the advent of electricity and modern lighting around the early 20th century, these lamps started to fade out of use. People began wanting the convenience and brightness of electric lighting instead of oil-based lamps that required constant attention and maintenance.
In addition, hurricane lamps were not as safe for indoor use as their electric counterparts. They often overheated, cracked unexpectedly, or even had flames that got too big. This became a particular problem as the popularity of hurricane lamps began to wane and they were no longer in heavy use outside or on ships.
However, even though hurricane lamps are not quite relevant anymore, many people still appreciate their classic design and history. People hang on to them because of their historical value and beautiful design. And antique electric hurricane lamps can fetch high prices from collectors who enjoy them for their aesthetic and historical value.
Evaluating Antique Hurricane Lamps
If you are looking to purchase an antique electric hurricane lamp, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. Whether you want to buy one for yourself or simply want to find out how much it might be worth, the key is knowing what to look for and how to evaluate it.
This will help you in two ways: spotting fakes and determining the true value of the lamp. Here are some things to look out for:
- Is it made of high-quality materials like brass or bronze? This is particularly important when spotting fakes, as these materials are expensive and fakes are often made from cheaper materials.
- Are there any cracks or chips in the glass? This is another major sign that you might have a fake, as antique lamps should not have any problems with their glass. The quality of the glass will tell you about the lamp’s history and help set its price point.
- Is it well-kept? Even if the lamp is authentic, it might not be in good condition. It’s often the case when the glass has been cleaned with harsh chemicals, or general wear and tear has caused problems over the years.
- How big is the lamp? Prices of electric hurricane lamps will often depend on the lamp’s size. Smaller lights can often be fairly affordable, while larger lights are more expensive.
- Does the lamp still work? A lamp that doesn’t light up is not worth as much as one that does. If the lamp is in perfect condition but doesn’t work, there might be an issue with the wiring or switch.
- How old is the lamp? Older lamps that were originally made during the height of their popularity can fetch much higher prices, as they are often more desirable.
While these are some basic guidelines to evaluate antique electric hurricane lamps, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, it’s best to consult with a professional appraiser who can help you determine the true value of your lamp.
Now that you have a general idea of what to look for when evaluating antique hurricane lamps, it’s time to dig a little deeper.
In-Depth Guide on Determining an Antique Electric Hurricane Lamp’s Value
If your goal is to find out how much your lamp is worth, then this guide is for you. Hurricane lamps are pretty simple in design, with most of them taking on a similar shape. But that does not mean that each lamp is the same and has an equal value.
Let’s start by studying the main parts that make up the lamp:
- The reservoir: This is what holds the oil. Traditionally made from copper or brass, it can also be made of glass to help keep the lamp clean and safe for indoor use.
- The chimney: This part is designed to help funnel air into and out of the lamp. In oil lamps, it was made from glass to help protect the flame. In electric lamps, it is usually made from metal, as it is designed to provide structural support and protect the flame.
- The shade: This part is crucial in determining the lamp’s value, as it helps protect the flame from wind. In antique lamps, these parts were often made from silk or parchment paper and could be very ornate. Today, they are usually made of glass or metal.
- The wick: In oil lamps, this is what gets lit and brings the oil into a flaming state. Older lamps used cotton or other natural fibers for this purpose, but most modern ones use synthetic fiber. In electric lamps, the wick has been replaced by a heat-resistant wire that conducts electricity. However, some converted lamps conserve their original wicks and can work with both oil and electricity.
- The burner: This is where the magic happens. The type of burner determines the lamp’s fuel source. In oil lamps, this is where the oil heats up and turns into a gas, and it is what lights the wick. In electric hurricane lamps, this is simply an electrical element that does not require any sort of fuel or oil to operate. It’s basically like a modern light bulb.
- The base: This part helps to stabilize the lamp and keep it upright. It’s typically made of wood, though antique electric hurricane lamps can feature wooden bases that have been painted with intricate designs.
When determining the authenticity and value of your lamp, you need to look at all of these parts. Cracks, dents, and discoloration can all affect an electric hurricane lamp’s value. If you have a lamp that is still working, then you should also see how well it lights up and pay attention to any sort of flicker or uneven burning.
It’s also important to consider its history. Was it used in a hurricane or other disaster? If so, this will significantly increase the price of the lamp. But if you know that your lamp has been well-maintained and is in pristine condition, then it will probably be worth more than one that has gone through a lot of wear and tear.
Warning: Make sure the lamp doesn’t look too good, as it can be a sign of tampering. Even the most valuable antique electric hurricane lamps should have signs of wear and tear, as this is a good indication that they have been kept in their original form.
Finally, you should also consider the geographical location of your lamp. Antique electric hurricane lamps from Florida or other coastal areas may be worth more due to their association with hurricanes, whereas lamps from safer places may not have this same connection.
Let’s now see how — and where — to buy antique hurricane lamps.
Buying an Antique Electric Hurricane Lamp
If you are interested in finding an antique hurricane lamp, then there are a few things that you can do.
The first is to shop around at antique stores. Antique dealers often have many different types of lamps and can tell you whether or not they are authentic. They may also be willing to give you a good value for your lamp, especially if you are looking to sell it.
Another option is to shop online. There are many websites that specialize in selling antique lamps and can help you find the perfect one for your home or collection. Make sure to do your research before buying, as there a lot of different styles and types available and not all of them will be authentic or worth a lot of money.
If you have lots of time on your hand, yard sales and flea markets are also a great place to look. Just remember that you may have to do some digging, as these antique lamps aren’t always advertised as such. But if you find the right one, you may stumble across a real gem.
Finally, you can check auction houses and estate sales to find unique antique electric hurricane lamps that may be worth more than their current market value.
In general, it is best to buy from reputable dealers or trusted sources, as this will help ensure that you are getting an authentic piece. But with some research and a bit of luck, your perfect antique hurricane lamp should be just a few clicks away.
Editor’s note: An Amazon search for “antique hurricane lamp” will give you lots of results. However, Amazon focuses on selling new products and basically every lamp on there is a replica. These aren’t antiques, they just look like ones. There’s nothing wrong with replicas per se, but if you’re after something truly valuable, then you’ll want to look elsewhere. Other online sellers are usually a better bet, though you will have to search for antique electric lamps on a case-by-case basis.
Let’s now see a few antique electric hurricane lamps you can buy or that have been sold at auction houses.
Antique Electric Hurricane Lamps for Sale
When we talk about antique, we refer to a lamp that is at least 75 years old. This severely narrows the age range for antique electric hurricane lamps, as most of them were made between 1890 and 1930 (though you can find older models, especially in the “Gone with the Wind” style).
However, since the hurricane lamp is such a classic design and has been used in homes worldwide for generations, you can still find antique electric hurricane lamps of all shapes and sizes.
Editor’s note: While some of these lamps have vintage in their name, the terms antique and vintage are usually used interchangeably and don’t always have strict definitions.
Here are a few you can buy right now.
Antique Gone with the Wind Style Hurricane Parlor Lamp
If you’re strapped for cash but still want to get your hands on a beautiful antique electric hurricane lamp, this antique lamp is for you. This shaded lamp is decorated with colorful flowers, making it both a functional and decorative piece. It’s a “Gone with the Wind” style and has a painted pink/green hurricane shade, perfect for anyone who loves the classic American novel. It also comes complete with an electric light socket that is ready to be used right out of the box.
Antique 1890s Pittsburg GWTW Success Oil Lamp
Continuing our list is this lamp that you can get for $93.50. This lamp has a beautiful floral design on the lower half of the lamp, while the upper half is basically untouched. That means you can decorate it yourself, or bring it to a professional for decoration. Despite its age, the price tag is quite reasonable considering its original design and the fact that it has survived for over a century. This is a GWTW Success model, which means it has a glass chimney and is filled with oil. It also comes with a wick in case you want to use it as an oil lamp.
Vintage Tall Clear Glass Electric Oil Hurricane Lamp Light
This is definitely an interesting piece that sells for only $108.69. It comes from the 1930s, which means it’s a full-blown antique. This lamp’s peculiarity is that it is fully made of glass. Being a converted piece, the base has probably been replaced from the typical brass one to the current glass one. The glass is clear, which gives it a classic, clean look that can match any decor. This is yet another converted lamp, but it still has the classic shape and is perfect for any collector or enthusiast.
Vintage 3-Way Double Globe Hurricane Lamp
This Vintage 3-Way Double Globe Hurricane Lamp is a great option for any home, though the auction is still ongoing. Made of milk glass (a type of glass that has a milky white color), this hurricane lamp features two globe lights and is in an excellent condition and still works. The key-shaped switch for the upper bulb adds a classic vintage touch to this lamp. The glass is lightly decorated with flowers and shows the artist’s signature. Currently, the bid is sitting at $79.99, but expect this price to rise as the auction comes to a close.
Antique Large GWTW Hurricane Hand Painted Lamp
This lamp’s electric mechanism is fully working, and the lampshade has been beautifully hand painted with traditional floral motifs. This would be a gorgeous addition to any room in your home or office. Its peculiarity is in how both “bulbs” can light up separately. So, you can have a more diffuse light by lighting up the lower bulb, or a more focused light by using the upper one. Buying this lamp will set you $199.99 back.
Vintage Gone with the Wind Hurricane Lamp
This vintage lamp is a beautiful, ornate lamp that is sure to enhance the look and feel of any home. With its delicate glass shade and brass base, and the translucent blue paint trim and details, this is a timeless lamp that you can buy for $329.95. Particularly, it is a “Gone with the wind” lamp, made famous by the book and movie of the same name, because of its association with the Civil War era. However, a note: as you noticed from the name, it’s a vintage, not an antique. That means it’s old but not as much as an actual antique. Still, its great looks and reasonable price make it a worthwhile investment.
Early 20th Century Pair of Brass Hurricane Lamps
Upping the price point a bit, we find this elegant pair of brass hurricane lamps from the 20th century. You can buy the set for $640.85. While these look like the most plain and simple lamps on our list, their excellent condition, old age, and solid brass make them quite valuable. One thing to note is that these are oil lamps that have been converted to electric lamps.
Antique Cranberry Opalescent Chrysanthemum Or Reverse Swirl Lamp
Going up in price again we find this lovely lamp that sells for $1,249. This is a beautiful lamp with a shade made of cranberry-colored glass. The design is very simple and elegant, featuring an elongated tulip shape that slightly tapers at the tips. It’s hard to find it in such excellent condition, but its price reflects the rarity. This specific lamp was made in 1905, which adds to its value. This is definitely a heavyweight hit for collectors, but casual enthusiasts might find it a bit out of budget.
Bradley & Hubbard Kerosine Lamp with Hand Painted Hurricane Glass
Keeping around the $1,500 mark, here’s a lamp that goes for $1,480. While the name might imply it’s a kerosine lamp, it’s actually a converted oil lamp. However, the kerosine part still works, so you can fill it up with lamp oil for a wonderful glow that will light up any room. Bradley & Hubbard is one of the most respected American companies that has manufactured lamps since 1865. What is special about this lamp is its glass shade, which has been beautifully hand-painted with a floral design and remains in excellent condition. Additionally, the golden brass base is in mint condition. This is the perfect addition to your home if you’re looking for an antique electric hurricane lamp that looks fresh and timeless despite being made over 100 years ago, as this model was made between 1885 and 1894.
If money is no object, then take a look at this pair of antique electric hurricane lamps that sell for $3,943.70. These are truly gorgeous lamps, with a base and stand that have been made of solid brass. The shades are in excellent condition, the electric mechanisms work perfectly, and the lamps themselves have achieved their best possible look due to polishing up their original finishes. The open scrollwork clasp that holds the shade also adds a beautiful decorative element. There’s no doubt these are one-of-a-kind pieces that will make any home look fantastic, but at the same time, they’re a bit pricey.
As you can see, you can find lamps for just about any budget and taste. Antique electric hurricane lamps are an excellent addition to any home. From their classic brass designs to the delicate glass shades and careful hand-painted details, these lamps are sure to impress anyone who sees them. If you’re into collecting antiques and vintage pieces, these are some of the best examples to have in your collection. But even if you’re just starting out or simply enjoy these beautiful lamps for their looks alone, they make an excellent addition to any home.
But let’s say you bought one. What next? How do you make sure you keep your lamp in good condition?
Maintenance of Antique Electric Hurricane Lamps
It’s important to remember that lamps like these were made of delicate materials with very little protection. That means they’re extra prone to damage and staining from dust and dirt. So the first step is to make sure they’re always cleaned thoroughly before being turned on.
Secondly, you should store them carefully when not in use. You can keep yours on display in a glass cabinet or similar storage area, but it’s best to wrap them in soft fabrics first to avoid any scratches from getting onto the glass or metal surfaces.
Another important thing is making sure that your antique hurricane lamps are properly rewired. That means that if the lamp is powered by an electric mechanism, it should be fitted with a new cord that can handle the voltage of your home. If you’re not sure whether this is the case, it’s best to have a professional take care of this for you.
Of course, at some point, lamps like these will need to be repaired. Luckily, it’s not too difficult to have it done, and you can often find someone who specializes in restoring antique lighting fixtures. Just make sure that person knows what they’re doing and is familiar with lamp mechanisms like these ones.
With all this information, you should have no problem taking care of your antique electric hurricane lamps and ensuring they continue to serve as beautiful and functional additions to your home.
Antique electric hurricane lamps are truly beautiful pieces that will make any home look great. With their hand-painted glass shades, delicate brass bases and other decorative elements, these lamps bring a classic elegance to any space. But taking good care of them is essential if you want to keep them looking their best over the years. Keep this in mind, and you’ll be sure to enjoy your antique lamps for many years to come.
The hardest part about shopping for an antique hurricane lamp is finding that perfect piece. If you’re not sure where to start looking, feel free to browse some of the many antique shops and online retailers out there today. With these tips in mind, you’re sure to find a lamp that matches your taste and budget perfectly.
Patience is crucial when it comes to shopping for antique hurricane lamps. But once you’ve found that perfect piece, the rest is easy. Take good care of your lamp and enjoy its beauty and functionality for many years to come.