Life by Lamplight: Collecting Antique Kerosene Lanterns

A trio of collectors consider antique kerosene lanterns to be 'hot' stuff.

| December 2002

Old-time kerosene lanterns pushed back the darkness 100 years ago, and they're still doing it these days at antique farm equipment shows across the country. The antique lantern-collecting bug bit Dan Sweet about 20 years ago. Today, he can count more than 110 antique kerosene lanterns in his personal collection, and he's found he enjoys introducing others to the hobby, too.

Dan lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., and says in the late 1970s, he met a man at a Zolfo Springs, Fla., show who had a nice, clean engine display – and three lanterns hanging out front. "Upon arriving home from that show, I went searching in my father's garage for a lantern that my grandfather had given me on a camping trip while I was in my mid-teens. It was a 1903 Paull's No. '0,' which is very rare." Dan got another old lantern from his dad, and after that, he considered himself officially a collector.

"I find lanterns are well accepted at tractor shows; they are relevant to farm life in the early years of tractors," he says. "Lanterns also give us something to do, and some place to gather after dark, when the tractors are at rest."

Six or seven years ago, Dan inspired a friend, Hal Corum of Pinellas Park, Fla., to begin collecting kerosene lanterns too. "They're kind of an ornament – and they're utilitarian," Hal says, "and they're one of the few collectibles my wife will let me keep in the house." To date, Hal has collected 175 vintage lanterns.

Then four years ago, he and Dan inspired Darrell Collins of Thomasville, Ga., to join them in the hobby. Learning from his friends and on his own, Darrell began building a collection too, and today, he owns nearly 70 antique lanterns, including eight darkroom lanterns, which are a special interest.

All three men take their lanterns to tractor shows, and they're constantly on the lookout for more. Most antique lanterns on the market today in the United States are either U.S.- made or English-made, according to these collectors. "The main maker was Dietz," Darrell says, referring to Robert E. Dietz, a New York City native who purchased a small oil lamp business in 1840 in Brooklyn and named it the R.E. Dietz Co. In time, although the company moved to Hong Kong after the founder's death, Dietz lanterns "were used all over," Darrell says, and they remain common today.

pop alexandru
6/4/2013 1:18:23 PM

can someone give me more details about my lamp ? Picture : . i didn't found anything about it on internet. Only one thing I found - that nobady knows about it, it is very rare and only one existing like it in one museum in Moscow - thank you !