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Home Articles/Reference LITTLE BEAUTY NIGHT LAMP

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Made by Silver & Co. of New York, Ca, 1889-1920

By Barry Schwartz

This lamp made its first appearance about 1880 and continued to be produced and sold until about 1920.  Shown in Frank and Ruth Smith's book "Miniature Lamps" in Figure 77 and known as "The Little Beauty Night Lamp", the lamp was patented in 1889, according to Ann Gilbert McDonald in her book, "Evolution of the Night Lamp."  We were not, however, able to locate a relevant 1889 patent for this lamp.  We did find a 1909 U.S. patent (Number 916,399, which can be found by searching for it at www.google.com/patents) for an improvement in the design which provided for easier replacement of the wick.  That patent called for the long brass wick tube to extend into the body of the font and up towards the filler cap. (Thus, if you find one of these lamps with an end of the filler tube visible on the inside of the font, it is reasonable to assume that it was manufactured after 1909).


The lamp was advertised in 1891 and offered for $0.50, or for free to new subscribers to a magazine called "The Housewife", and was claimed to burn for 30 hours on a single filling of "coal oil".  In 1905, it was advertised by the manufacturer in "Scribner's Magazine Advertiser" at a price of $0.65.  While the price increased 30% between 1891 and 1905, the length of time the lamp would burn on a a single filling increased by 75%; the 1905 ad claimed it would burn for over 40 hours!  Although generally known as "The Little Beauty Night Lamp", this lamp was also marketed (in the Boston area by Jordan Marsh), as the "Salem Witch Night Lamp" and one ad we've seen called it "Baby Cleveland".  In that ad, the price had climbed to $1.00 (although apparently it still burned for just 40 hours on one filling).  (Fifty cents in 1891 equates to about $13.85 today, while $0.65 in 1901 equates to about $16.65, at least according to one inflation calculator available on the web).  McDonald notes that the lamp was still being advertised in 1915 and by that time it was claimed to be "the largest selling night lamp in the world".  In addition to the claims about the lamp burning 40 hours on a single filling of "ordinary coal oil", the lamp was supposed to be odorless and the 21 inches of wick provided with the lamp was supposed to last for "several years" (one lable states that the wick will last "a year or more").  The lamp was made to stand or be hung on the wall and was proclaimed to be perfect for "Entries, Stairways, Doorways or Anywhere" including bathrooms, bedrooms, halls and kitchens).  Interestingly one of this lamp's proclaimed virtues was that when lighted, it looked "like an electric lamp"!  The promotional material for this lamp further proclaimed "in case of sickness this lamp will be found of great value.  Money cannot buy, neither can there be found a better lamp for that purpose."

Since this lamp was popular over an extended period of time, prices for wicks and replacements globes changed over time.  The label shown below shows replacement wicks priced at 10 cents each and replacements white(opal) globes at 13 cents.  We've also seen examples that list replacement wicks and globes at 20 cents each.

We have one example of this lamp in our personal collection that is in its original box.  The box is imprinted with some of the advertising material that has been quoted above.  Perhaps even more interesting is that this lamp came with a very small tin funnel apparently to be used as an aid in filling the lamp with oil.  This is the only time we've seen such a funnel included with a night lamp!  



Barry and Kay Schwartz are active members of the Historical Lighting Society of Canada, and the Night Light Club of America, and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  They are "top rated sellers" on ebay, under the name of kayschwartz.




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