Lifestyles and lighting go hand-in-hand in history Antiques: Lamps shed light on the customs of the day.

March 23, 1997|By Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel | Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel,KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

Lamps and lighting fixtures are necessary decorative objects in a room. Each period of design has lamps that furnish the type of light possible with the power source available. Lamps also have been designed to blend with the furniture of the day.

Most 18th-century homes were lighted by candles or oil lamps. The dim light was all that was available, so most people rose with the dawn and went to bed at sunset.

The 19th century brought several lighting improvements. Whale oil lamps and oil and kerosene lamps were designed to give more light at night. Gaslights became available in many homes by the end of the 19th century. It was not unusual to place a gas lamp on a center table so the entire family could read or sew by the light.

Electricity changed lamps and lifestyles. Lamps could be designed without consideration of how a flame would burn.

Tiffany lamps, with lily-shaped glass shades that focused the light down were radical designs in the late 1800s. Stained-glass and painted-glass shades were made by the 1890s.

Many makers used glass dome lampshades that completely covered the light bulbs but let the light shine into the room.

Early electric lamps often had bronze-colored bases that resembled candlesticks or urns.

Arts and Crafts designers from 1900 to the 1920s made lamps with blocky wooden bases and shades of glass, mica or metal. Shades were made with random chunks of glass and not the artistic stained glass that was used earlier.

Lamps became fancier in the 20th century. By the 1960s, there were lava lamps, glowing plastic "boulders," panthers with green eyes, plastic lamps that looked like football helmets and other unfamiliar shapes.

The Kovels welcome letters and answer as many as possible through the column. Write to Kovels, The Sun, King Features Syndicate Inc., 235 E. 45th St., New York, N.Y. 10017.

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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