Antique Mini-Lamps on Display at Museum

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2005,
Winter 2005
Original Images:

Author: Joy Anne Shulke

Antique mini-lamps will be on display at the Museum through the Christmas holidays. Irene Jameson has loaned approximately 60 lamps to be displayed from her original collection of about 300 lamps. Mrs. Jameson and her deceased husband, Paul, accumulated the lamps over 40 years. He was a Michigan Bell repair-man who was originally interested in glass items, especially paper weights. These interests lead to mini-lamps. After his retirement, he became an expert in the repair of spinning wheels. The assemblage is unique in Michigan because there aren't many mini-lamp collectors in this state. Usually, the Jameson's had to travel to Ohio, Pennsylvania or New York to find the lamps.

Glass was not manufactured on a large scale in Michigan. That is because manufacturers needed natural gas as a heat source to make glass. Each glass company specialized in their own glass pattern and colors. The most desirable are made of colored milk glass. Most lamps found today are about 75 years old, although there are some that are over 100 years old. They come in different colors, heights of chimneys, different shaped burners and bases. Finding a complete lamp is difficult. Approximately 20% did not have their bases and 40% are missing their shades. And they may have the brass collar missing.

Mrs. Jameson shared a little of her knowledge about the lamps. Mini-lamps were used somewhat like we use night lights today. They also were called “sparking” lamps since, when the lamp went out, the gentleman was expected to go home. In the 1930s and ‘40s they were sold as “perfume lamps” because scented oil could be in the base so that, as the lamp burned, the room took on a lovely aroma. As we talked, she pointed to one of the museum's mini-lamps on a shelf in the kitchen. She said it probably was sold in a dime store and is missing its shade.

The Jameson's collected “everything”. She became interested in the mini-lamps because they were pretty. She uses them as decoration in her home, at dinner parties, and when the electricity goes out. She mentioned an orange one, which alone to her is ugly. But in the fall it fits in perfectly with the decorations on her mantle.

The Jameson's collected other items beside the lamps. She has begun down-sizing the various collections. She has passed on her favorite mini-lamps to her children and grandchildren. The museum is proud and lucky that she is willing to share them with us and the public. Please avail yourself of this opportunity to enjoy these lovely little lamps from the past.