New Log Cabin lamp in milk glassBy

New Log Cabin lamp in milk glass

The new Log Cabin figural lamps were made in a number of colors. Pictured below is a milk glass example of the new lamp. Milk glass was one of the colors of original Log Cabins lamps and new milk glass might easily be confused with old.

The original Log Cabin lamp was made by Thomas Atterbury Glass and Lamp Co., ca. 1876. Atterbury's Log Cabin lamp has no relationship to Log Cabin pattern table glass made by Central Glass Company at about the same time.

Atterbury's original Log Cabin lamp was made in a complex four-piece mold which produced the body and handle as a single piece. Atterbury patented the mold in 1868 (see patent drawing next page). The same type of mold with only changes for shape was used on five patterns of Atterbury lamps: Log Cabin, Filley, Shell, Ribbed Shoulder and Plain Band. All five lamps date to around 1868.

Here is how the mold worked. With the lower half of the mold closed and the top half open, glass was poured in the handle. As a second gather of glass was placed in the lower half of the mold, the top half of the mold was closed. The second gather was then blown to create the font in the top half of the mold. In other words, the handle and font of the Atterbury Log Cabin lamp are formed as a single piece. In contrast, the body and handle of new Log Cabin lamps are made from two separate pieces of glass–the handle is applied to the font. The new handle has an obvious curl in the lower end. An examination of the handle is by far the easiest way to separate old from new.

One of the most widely used reference books on small oil lamps, Miniature Lamps by Frank and Ruth Smith (Book I), has contributed to the confusion between old and new. Although the Smiths picture an old Log Cabin lamp, the caption describes the lamp as having an "applied handle." All originals were made as described above with the handle and font made as one piece.

A number of other lamp books can also be confusing because they show genuinely old versions at an angle which hides the handle. If you are bidding on a lamp you haven't personally inspected or have viewed only pictures that do not show the handle, be sure to ask very specific questions about how the handle is joined to the font.

Many new lamps, including the one shown in Fig. 1, have been "married," or joined, to genuinely old burners and collars. The cheap pressed brass collars that come with new lamps are glued to the glass font. Old original burners were usually attached to the glass font with plaster. Of course if someone clever enough to put in an old burner, they will probably use plaster in the collar.

Original lamps were made in clear, blue, amber and milk glass (opaque white). New lamps have been made in clear, cobalt, green and milk glass (opaque white). The size of old and new is very similar and is not a reliable indicator of age. The best test of authenticity is to examine the handle.

New Log Cabin lamps were wholesaled for $10 each in the mid-1990s.

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Fig. 1 New Log Cabin figural lamp in milk glass. Marked "Very Rare" by the seller and priced at $675. Body and handle are made from two separate pieces of glass.

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Fig. 2 Close up view of new lamp with applied handle. Note curling tail on lower handle (arrow).

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Fig. 3 Original Atterbury Log Cabin lamp. Handle and lamp body are molded as one continuous piece of glass.

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Fig. 4 A Close up view of old molded handle in clear glass.

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Fig. 5 Atterbury's 1868 four-piece mold to make handles and fonts as one piece of glass. Variations of this basic mold were used on five different lamps including the original Log Cabin. Note the four handles, one for each part of the mold.