Unmarked Lamps



    Many times is very difficult to determine the actual manufacturer of the early lamps. Some lamp companies never made any of there lamps. They would have outside brass shops make the required parts. Other firms would just "OEM" someone else's lamp and put there name on it. Others would make a part or two and use another manufacturers parts were convenient.


Here is a little lamp history supplied by Paul L. Kouts in an email to the LampTramps group in response to a new discovery of a Alonzo Roach lamp.

Before 1910, there were only a few sources of stamped carbide lamp bodies, sources in the East, like Chase in Connecticut or Everhart in Scranton.  The major lamp manufacturers like Baldwin bought their stamped parts in large quantities, then assembled and marketed finished products.  Grier and Justrite had their own stamping capability but didn't enter the carbide lamp arena until about 1907/08.

What do I mean by a major manufacturer -- well, by 1912 over 1 million Baldwins had been sold!

What was going on with small entrepreneurs is a different and interesting story, especially in Illinois and Indiana.

Frank Guy started out by improving on a weakness in the Baldwin design.  Baldwin was an adherent of the "pressure controlled" water feed.  Guy worked from his back porch replacing the original feed with his own design of a "cutoff value" water feed.  After a few years, the result was patented and became well known as "Guy's Dropper".  Then the 3 brothers put together the financing to develop their factory.

Meyer Stein has a similar history.  Meyer set up a small machinist's repair shop in the front of his brother's clothing store.  Like Guy, he specialized in designing and replacing the water feed for those miners not happy with Baldwin lamps.  While Meyer didn't grow to the same eminence as Guy, he was still quite successful; going on to establish Stein Bros. which manufactured lamps for the next 2 decades.  He also consulted on lamp designing, notably for the Buddy and Elkhorn.

Frank Scoby has a contrasting story.  Scoby approached the field of carbide lamp design with enthusiasm, a concept, and money -- but not experience.  He arranged a partnership with 5 backers, obtained a pattent on his design, and had the first order of 2000 lamps made by a  St. Louis company.  According to his son, the St. Louis company did not follow the design accurately and a water valve leak caused the recall of the majority of the lamps.

By searching the patents between 1910 and 1917, you will find a lot of patents with little known names.  Their backgrounds range from mine engineers (machinists) to saloon owners.  Most of the designs proposed are for innovations and are based on Baldwin style lamp bodies.

So can one be sure that the "Roach" lamp mentioned recently in this forum is really a "Roach" lamp? Or, is it an early experimental modification to another manufacturer's lamp?

Some things to check that might help attribute the lamp are contained  in the patents:

    1.    Was there a model submitted with the application?

    2.    Are there any claims relating specifically to the body style? (This requires reading                 the full patent, not just looking at the pictures.)

    3.    Does the drawing contain any specific variations that can be found in the subject lamp?

My opinion on these recent lamps -- they do appear to be of Alonzo Roach's origin.  But, I still hold hopes of seeing one that is still a little closer to the patent depiction.

Paul L. Kouts

    To continue the thread of this discussion I will follow with a copy of the Roach lamp patient supplied by Larry Click. I will then present two different groups of photos of the Roach lamp. They are quite different but are probable just variations on the same design.

Alonzo Roach's Carbide Lamp Patent

Two variations of this lamp were presented to the LampTramp group. The first was a recent find by Ron Thomas. Here is how he described his great find.

> Hi All
>     A new patented carbide cap lamp surfaced in Terre Haute, Indiana
> last week and is now in the collection of Andrew Peacock (of Terre
> Haute).
> For those who study carbide cap lamp patents, between 1913 and 1924,
> at least 6 patents were granted to people in Terre Haute, or within a
> 25 mile radius of the city.  This new lamp follows the patent of the
> very  earliest of them all.  The patent belongs to Alonzo Roach of Linton,
> Indiana, granted on July 29, 1913 and is patent #1,068,931.  The lamp
> is unmarked but follows the patent exactly.  This lamp was actually
> used for some time in the past because there is a good wear notch
> on the hook from swinging on a cap for a period of time.
>     In the making of the lamp, Alonzo Roach constructed from
> scratch what he needed to produce his patent concept, but used
> Baldwin cap lamp parts for the rest.  The lamp has a very precisely
> made water chamber that is then attached to the spare lid from a
> Bladwin carbide bottom  (this serves as the upper threads on the
> water chamber) and then has a Baldwin base screwed on.  It also
> has a Baldwin incused water door used on the water chamber.
> The water lever and the cap hook are both copper.
>     The patent applies to the way the water is dropped down a tube
> into the carbide.  As stated on the patent: "a water distributor
> comprising of a coiled wire which is tapered at the lower end
> thereof.  The coils of the wire are slightly spaced to allow water from
> the reservoir to drain through, thereby equally distributing
> the water to the carbide."  As for the water feed mechanism, the
> patent reads: "Upon raising the rod, the water will be allowed
> to flow through the pipe into the distributor."  Again, the lamp
> functions exactly this way.
>     The only unfortunate thing about the lamp is that the water
> distributing coiled spring broke part way down from the cover
> plate that holds the felt in place and the broken off piece was
> found laying in the carbide bottom.
>     The patent also applied to the "automatic sparking device" which
> looks pretty much like a standard striker but is attached to a
> real strange looking reflector.  It is kind of a coincidence that
> about a month ago I posted a couple of pictures of two miners
> from Dugger, Indiana wearing Baldwin cap lamps with reflectors
> very similar to the one on this lamp.  Dugger is about 6 miles
> from Linton and the photo is dated January 31, 1913!
    Ron Thomas

Front View

Side View

Notice the placement of the gas nozel, the height of the carbide bottom and the shape of the reflector. these do not match the patient above but the water valve does match the patent description.

    Larry Click has a Roach lamp that matches the patient but unfortunately does not have the reflector.

You may have noticed the Click's lamp has a taller water chamber and the Thomas lamp has a taller carbide bottom. It is hard to believe that these two lamps came from the same manufacturer.