19th Century Green Glass Whale Oil Lamp

This example is a reproduction made long enough ago, and well enough, too, that today's collectors may easily mistake it for an original early glass lamp. Some of the features that first meet the eye, such as the upper portion of the font having the appearance of being blown glass and the body pressed molded in a 3 part mold, help to create the illusion of age. The glass of the upper font also seems a bit wavy, like old hand-made glass can, and a few stray particles of debris trapped in the glass further hint to early manufacture. When it was made the final touch was to engrave the upper font section with a floral motif and the base with lines and ovals. So, what could be wrong here?

Lamps that burned whale oil typically were used in the average household from the late 1820's until the early 1860's, by which time kerosene had supplanted whale oil as a primary source for lighting. Pressed glass lamps were made from about 1830, with vase-type shapes similar to the lamp shown in this listing popular between about 1835 and 1845. Lamps of this era typically had sections joined together with a wafer or blob of glass, which then became part of its overall design. In some lamps these wafers of glass may sometimes look slightly uneven, and because they were not made in a mold, but applied separately, glass joining wafers should not have a mold line.

On the lamp illustrated in this listing, notice the mold seam line traveling from top to bottom of the lamp. It goes over all the entire central section of the design. The connecting seam line denotes a method of manufacture not yet technologically possible when whale oil lamps were originally being made. An authentic early 19th century glass whale oil lamp made by joining two separate sections would not have that feature.

Other characteristics help identify production of this specific item to ca. 1930. The collar is incorrect. It is made of thin, coated brass, not pewter. The color of the glass (Depression era green) and the decorative engraving, which is not correct for the 1835-1845 period but was a common decorative effect on 1930's glass, are also noteworthy.

The Westmoreland Glass company, among others, is known to have produced reproductions of whale oil lamps in the 1930's, as collector interest in Colonial Americana spiked. Glass companies made examples of reproduction whale oil lamps in both colorless and colored glass, with etched design or left undecorated, and many such items could be purchased complete with an attractive shade. It clipped onto the bulb in the electric socket in the antique-look metal collar. On this piece the impression can be seen where a part of the electric socket once rested on the cork inside the collar.

The difference in value between an authentic Boston and Sandwich glass whale oil lamp made in 1835 and a Depression era replica of such a lamp can be quite dramatic, as suggested by the price seen in this listing. So while each may be of interest to collectors for their own reasons, no one should pay to own the former only to find out later that, instead, they bought the latter.

Measures 10 7/8 inches tall to the top of the metal collar.

Item ID: 2007RP000223

Modern Reproductions, Fakes and Fantasies


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