“Nearly a century ago, a very small boy on a Nebraska farm read and re-read the Arabian Nights story of Aladdin in a room of darkness but for the flickering yellow light of an open flame “coal oil lamp.” Several years later that boy, grown to manhood, found a lamp that erased the darkness with a soft white light and it was only natural that he named the lamp “Aladdin.” An appropriate name, indeed, for this revolutionary boon to rural America seemed nothing short of magical in the intensity of its light.
“For those who lit the lamp, trimmed its wick and cleaned its chimney, or just enjoyed its friendly glow, the Aladdin lamp recalls many memories of golden childhood. It made learning possible for many boys and girls; made it possible for them to acquire knowledge that helped them realize their dreams and aspirations.
“Later, Aladdin brought this white light to every kind of habitat in every corner of the globe. For many, it has been the only light of their entire life. Even when electricity comes, there are a loyal few who profess to use the electric light only “to find the match” to light their Aladdin.”
V. S. Johnson, Jr.
Very Brief History
Victor Johnson founded the Mantle Lamp Company of America in Chicago in 1908 and imported the Practicus incandescent burner from Germany. He obtained the Aladdin trademark in 1908 and sold the first model of the American-made Aladdin lamp in 1909. In 1926 Johnson bought the Lippincott Glass factory in Alexandria, Indiana to make glass lamps, chimneys and shades, changing the name to Aladdin Industries.
Agents were recruited to sell lamps throughout the country and farm land. They demonstrated the Aladdin and often left the lamp in the home for an overnight trial. The agent arranged for local merchants to stock supplies. In 1928 the company turned solely to franchise dealers—some 15,000 in the early 1930s. The company advertised extensively in newspapers and through radio. Smilin Ed McConnell was so popular that he became the “Aladdin lamp man.”
Aladdin lamps were made in the USA until 1963, after which brass lamps were imported from England. Only the glass lamps continued to be made in the USA. Since 1977 the Aladdin burners have been manufactured in Hong Kong while the fonts are made in the USA and England. Chimneys, wicks and mantles are
made in other countries today.
In 1999 Aladdin Industries sold the lamp division to collector/ investors who named their company Aladdin Mantle Lamp Company, located in Clarksville, Tennessee.
For more information, download a free copy of “A Brief History of Aladdin Lamps.”
Copyright © 2002 by J. W. Courter. J. W. Courter is professor emeritus, University of Illinois. His avocation is collecting and studying oil lamps. He writes and publishes books about Aladdin Lamps.