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"Scarce" Lamp Celebrating White House Grandchild
SI-393
Manufactured by Gillinder & Sons, © 1889
 
By Barry Schwartz
 
Who was "Baby McKee" and why did he have a lamp named after him?  "Baby McKee" was Benjamin Harrison McKee (born 1887), the grandson of Benjamin Harrison (23rd President of the Unites States, 1889-1893) who himself was the grandson of President William Henry Harrison. His popularity may have been because he was the grandson of a president who was also the grandson of a president or perhaps just because he was a cute child.  Whatever the reason, "Baby McKee", as he was widely known, is considered by some to be the most publicized child in the history of the White House. We can assume that his popularity was the reason for the lamp being named after him.  President Benjamin Harrison had quite a few members of his family living with him at the White House during his term of office (making the White House quite crowded according to historians).  His large family included his widowed daughter Mary (who served as First Lady for the last months of Harrison's presidency after her mother Caroline died), Baby McKee and his sister Mary Lodge McKee (how come she did not get equal attention?).  Then, as now, the personal lives and the families of U.S. presidents were of great interest to the press and to the populace.

 
 

 
 
 
 Photograph of Baby McKee in his Goat Cart.  The story is told that "One day the goat, named "His Whiskers", dashed off without warning, pulling Baby McKee across the White House lawn and onto Pennsylvania Avenue.  President Harrison, a big and bulky man, ran after him as best he could, and finally caught up to the frisky goat."  (From the White House Historical Association web site: http://www.whitehousehistory.org/04/subs/04_a02_d.html)
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
This little lamp is shown in Frank and Ruth Smith's book "Miniature Lamps" on page 170, Figure 393.  According to Ann Gilbert McDonald (in her book "Evolution of the Night Lamp") it was made by Gillinder & Sons, a company founded in Philadelphia in 1861 (and which is still in operation today in Port Jervis, N.Y.) and which manufactured "lighting glassware, pressed and cut tableware, window glass and druggist glassware." This lamp was introduced on October 3, 1889.  It was followed in January of 1890 by a related lamp called the "Pearl Baby McKee" (SI-299). (Gillinder & Sons were apparently really taken with the President's grandson!)  Both lamps were popular and praised by industry critics.  The October 1891 "Pottery & Glassware Reporter", referring to both of these lamps, wrote that "The colored lamps made by this firm (Gillinder & Sons)...have no rivals for a light suitable for bedroom or sick chamber, a sufficient light being given with very little heat or consumption of oil".
 
 Barry and Kay Schwartz are active members of the Historical Lighting Society of Canada, and the Night Light Club.  They are top rated sellers on ebay under the name of kayschwartz. Kay and Barry may be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 
 

 
 

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