Unusual colors and frosted surfaces of Aladdin glass lamps have been seen, from time-to-time, over the past 40+ years.
I first wrote about “Fake Lamps” in 1973 in the second issue of the Mystic Light. Were they made by Aladdin and are they experimental rarities?
The frosted surface and fake colors have been applied to enhance clear glass lamps such as Washington Drapes and Beehive. These cannot be documented in Aladdin sales literature, catalogues and known records.
Therefore my first reaction is always—”No, this was not produced and sold by Aladdin.”
It is theorectly possible that such a lamp, or lamps, could be samples made by Aladdin—or for Aladdin with permission. Of course, Aladdin would have to provide the cast-iron mold. If a
new mold was made, the resulting lamp would be slightly smaller in size.
Frosted Lamps have a white satin-like finish resulting from submerging the font in an acid treatment. Usually the entire font is treated—inside the font and under the foot. Sometimes the
surface does not etch uniformly leaving a clear or blotched area.
Fake colors, usually red or blue, may be applied as paint, stain or flashing. The same reaction is—they cannot be documented in Aladdin sales literature, catalogues or known records. Hence—not an original lamp made by Aladdin.
To my knowledge all of Henry Hellmers’ glass colors were produced with coloring agents mixed into the glass batch in the Aladdin glasshouse.
How To Tell Fake Color
Painted colors may or may not be fused to the glass surface. We have heard of craft shop and motorcycle paints used to color lamps. These may be obvious by scratches or wear.
Flashed or stained colors may be created with a fusible glaze “applied to the glass. The glaze may be finely ground metallic oxide mixed with oil. After drying the glass is heated in a kiln to fuse the glaze.
True flashed color, however, is made by dipping the clear glass into a molten colored glass (red, blue, etc.) to apply a thin coating of color.
- Look for runs, streaks or scratches in the applied finish color. Try to make your own scratch. Some of these finishes seem “perfect” to the eye and touch. To be bold use a buffing wheel with jewelers rouge to remove the surface color.
- Inspect under the oil fill. Any color on the white cement? Or has the oil fill been replaced with glue?
- Remove the burner and hold font up to strong light. Look in the burner opening through the thick glass stem or connection with foot. If fake the color of glass will disappear because it is clear glass
Henry Hellmers was hired to improve and create glass colors for Aladdin lamps. The company was changing from metal center-draft lamps (Model 12) to glass lamps that the company could make itself. Aladdin glass lamps were made of basic sodalime glass.
Glass lamps were more profitable as well as colorful and dominated the rural farm markets until well after the War.
Collectors observe differences in color intensity, shade and hue. For
example see the collection of Washingtom Drapes on the next page. These are all standard production made in different years, different tanks of glass and most of these were made after Hellmers left Aladdin.
Aladdin colored glass was commonly produced by adding metallic oxides into the glass batch. The following list gives resulting glass colors.
Aladdin glass was prepared in day tanks and large continuous tanks. Hellmers was aware of difference in glass color due to thickness of glass for blowing or pressing. His formulae accounted for those differences as well as kind, color and amount of cullet used. “If light in color add a few pounds of bone ash.” Aladdin had a definite order for transition from one batch to the next.
Unwanted residues could change the color of the following batch.
Hellmers listed one formula for an irridescent glass: “Golden Luster on Glass.” A solution of Cl2 and FeCL3 sprayed on glass surface, heated to 700 to produce a golden luster (p. 455 in Hellmers’ Batch Book).
Reference: Henry T. Hellmer’s Batch Book of Glass Formulae, Limited Edition, 2002, published by J. W. Courter.
Henry Hellmers was truly a glass chemist. He understood the interactions of sand, cullet, chemical ingredients, fire, heat, and manipulation of the batch in the glasshouse. Aladdin gave trade names to Hellmers glass: Moonstone, Velvex, Aladex, Alacite etc. More information about Aladdin Lamp Glass may be found in
my books and in Glass Collector’s Digest 2(1):34-42 published in 1988. They author would love to know of your unusual lamp colors.
Fake Colors of Aladdin Lamps
Tim Hall was said to use motorcycle or automotive paint to color clear glass Aladdin lamps. He signed many on the inside bottom rim. You can scrape coloring paint from the clear glass. See image.
More Fake Colors / Finish of Aladdin Glass Lamps
Light blue Washington drape B-53 that is light blue glass, unless it was stained or flashed. This lamp definitely a fooler. The bowl seems to have been given an iridescent treatment, not as evident on the foot. The oil fill was replaced with glue.
Looking through the burner opening the verdict is questionable. We would expect a more pronounced brighter, white center, rather than mostly pale blue.
White Washington Drape
In the early 1950’s Aladdin was selling aluminum font lamps. The company was closing the Alexandria, Indiana factory. It has been reported that Aladdin sent a mold to Dunbar Glass in West Virginia to make glass lamps. Is this an example?
The story about the white Washington drape has not been written. Dunbar Glass closed in 1953. Very few white Washington Drapes have been found.
Fake White Beehive
Painted White Beehive bought couple years ago. Painted (inside & outside) possibly by Tim Hall. The true white Beehive was made of white moonstone by Aladdin; but was not catalogued or assigned a sales number. Rare. Few are found, but there are some 8-9 known.
Appreciation: Thanks to collectors who helped with this story about fake color of Aladdin Lamps. Russ Benard, Missy Hicks, Bob Martin. Bob & Patricia Sine, Robert Sunberg, Randy Talley, Brenda Cordeiro and Barbara Worden.
Copyright © 2019 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.