Digest>Archives> October 2003

Collecting Nautical Antiques

U. S. Lighthouse Service lantern

By Jim Claflin


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Recently a number of lanterns have come on the market that should be of interest.

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As you would expect, the Lighthouse Service, like other services, required lanterns for use in walking and for general utility lighting. Not much is known about the types and styles of lanterns used except what we are able to piece together over time. In looking through the U. S. Lighthouse Service, Keeper’s Annual Property Return, Requisition, and Receipt Form No. 30 for the period, bulkhead lanterns, and kerosene hand lanterns are mentioned. The bulkhead lantern was fairly large and intended to be mounted on a shelf or wall.

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The kerosene lanterns were smaller units with a carrying handle or bail on top. The globes were generally clear as they were used for lighting, rather than signaling or navigation aid. I have seen only four or five over the years and all were manufactured by the R. E. Dietz Company, generally their “No. 2 Blizzard” style.

Robert Edwin Dietz first began selling whale oil and camphene lamps and lanterns in 1840. By 1859, Robert and his brother Michael patented the first practical flat wick burner especially designed for the then new fuel oil, kerosene. The #2 Blizzard was billed as “King of the Cold Blasts,” and was one of the first Cold Blast Lanterns produced by the company. Introduced in 1898, there are at least five variations of this perennial favorite. The oldest versions have an outside globe lift and a slotted brass cone. All were of high quality and were of brass top and bottom with steel supports. On the lanterns ordered by the Lighthouse Service, soldered to the base oil reservoir was a brass tag or cartouche. To date I have found two variations on this label, all on No. 2 Blizzards but of different eras. One cartouche reads “U.S.L.H.S.”, while the second reads “U.S.L.H.S. NO. 2” Both are nicely made with a raised border, and curved to fit the lantern base. Don’t accept a lantern bearing a tag that is anything but the best quality and of the design shown here, as there have been attempts to duplicate such items. For more information on lanterns produced by the Dietz company, try the web site at www.lanternnet.com/compendium

For a wonderful “inside” look at the items and equipment issued to keepers, a complete photo copy of the U. S. Department of Commerce, Lighthouse Service, Keeper’s Annual Property Return, Requisition, and Receipt Form No. 30. 24 pages. 8” x 10” is available for $8 plus $1 postage.

Like our column? Have suggestions for future subjects? Please send in your suggestions and questions, or a photograph of an object that you need help dating or identifying. We will include the answer to a selected inquiry as a regular feature each month in our column.

Jim Claflin is a recognized authority on antiques of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Life-Saving Service, Revenue Cutter Service and early Coast Guard. In addition to authoring and publishing a number of books on the subject, Jim is the owner of Kenrick A Claflin & Son Nautical Antiques. He may be contacted by writing to him at 30 Hudson Street, Northborough, MA 01532, or by calling 508-393-9814. Or by email: jclaflin@lighthouseantiques.net or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net

This story appeared in the October 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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