So what's an Aladdin lamp?
Victor Samuel Johnson was born in Nebraska and grew up on a farm there. As a young schoolboy, he had to study by the flickering light of a flat wick kerosene lamp. In spite of this, he learned his lessons well and became a bookkeeper and salesman for the Iowa Soap Company in Burlington, Iowa.
In 1905 he saw a German lamp that made superior light with the use of a cone shaped "mantle" which was suspended above the lamps flame. The flame heated the mantle, causing it to glow and produce a bright white light. The German lamp also made use of a round wick and a center draft tube which allowed a very even burning flame that did not flicker.
It did not take Victor long to realize the sales potential of such a lamp. In 1908 he incorporated "The Mantle Lamp Company of America" and in early 1909 the first "Aladdin" lamp was introduced to America.
The name Aladdin was actually derived from the story of Aladdin and his wonderful lamp-- in which old lamps were offered for new. One of the sales programs of the company allowed a trade allowance for old lamps and many Aladdin lamps were given away as part of their introduction to the public.
As The Mantle Lamp Company of America grew from the sales of the Aladdin lamps, it also diversified into many other products. In 1919 it formed a subdivision called "Aladdin Industries Inc." to market it's diverse product line. In 1949 The Mantle Lamp Company of America merged with its subsidiary, "Aladdin Industries Inc.," and became known by that name. This industry is still producing a variety of products, but is probably best known for the Aladdin thermos products it manufactures. It still produces and sells Aladdin kerosene lamps.
It is hard for us to think back to a time without television, vcr's, computers and electrical appliances. Most of us however, have experienced a power outage at one time or another and have been made keenly aware of our pampered life styles. In the dark of a power outage what would the light of a sixty watt light bulb mean to you? Under those conditions you experienced just a small hint of what the Aladdin mantle lamp meant to those who bought them. The Aladdin lamp with its "rare earth oxide mantle" not only brought a light into the darkness, it changed the lives of millions of people.
When I look upon the lamps in my collection I see more than just pretty pieces of glass-- I see the people that used them and feel a little remorse in their passing. The lamps are the epitaph to a way of life I never knew. I can't look upon them without wondering where they have been. What good or bad times have they brought from the darkness? They are history, and for a short time I am their keeper--then I too shall become one of their secrets.