Arts (125)
    Asian & African (8)
    Books (560)
    Boxes & Tea Caddies (85)
    Clocks (36)
    Decorative (398)
    Dolls & Bears (122)
    Figurines (530)
    Furniture (24)
    Glass (1736)
View All

Search our

Poodle, Spaghetti Trim, Ucagco

Collector Books

The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles

RARE Antique WILLIAM PENN Miniature Oil Lamp, S2-120 by Atterbury. Dated 1868 For Sale

RARE Antique WILLIAM PENN Miniature Oil Lamp, S2-120 by Atterbury.  Dated 1868

This item has been shown 689 times.

Buy Now

RARE Antique WILLIAM PENN Miniature Oil Lamp, S2-120 by Atterbury. Dated 1868:

Wm Penn 3839 S2-120

"RARE" Atterbury Human Head/WM. PENN Finger Lamp, S2-120 Ca. 1868

Atterbury William Penn Hand Lamp, S2-120

About 10 5/8" tall to top of chimney

About 3 3/4" tall to top of collar

About 6" wide from edge of handle to tip of Penn's nose

About 3 1/2" in diameter at base

Wm. Penn Finger, or Hand, Lamp

S2-120, Thuro 1 & Thuro 3

Rated "Rare"

Manufactured by Atterbury & Company, Pittsburgh, Ca. 1868

Antique pie-crust top chimney glows under "black light"

Plume & Atwood "Banner" Prong and Hinge burner

Excellent condition

Lamp Manufactured According to 1868 Patent

Background & History: On June 30, 1868, U. S. Patent Number 79,298 was issued to James and Thomas Atterbury of Pittsburgh, PA. The patent was for a process by which glassware with handles could be manufactured with the handles an integral part of the molding process. Prior to the Atterburys' invention, handles on glassware were applied to the article by skilled craftsmen after the article was blown or molded. Atterburys' patent described a 4-part mold (divided in half both horizontally and vertically). The handle was contained primarily in the lower half of the mold. First, the lower half of the mold was closed and molten glass was poured into the section in which the handle was formed. The glass maker then placed a ball of hot glass into the part of the mold which was to form the font, placed the top half of the mold over the bottom and blew the glass into the remainder of the mold. This created a hollow font to which was attached a solid handle. A byproduct of this process was that there was an extra thick glob of glass on the inside of the font where the handle was attached. The presence of this glob of glass on the inside of the font has become a critical element in distinguishing original old Atterbury lamps from reproductions.

This clear glass human head finger, or hand, lamp was made by Atterbury & Company using the process described in the patent, and is embossed on the bottom of the font with the June 30th, 1868 patent date. This lamp has not been reproduced, but, of course, still has the tell-tale "glob" of glass inside the font where the handle was molded into the lamp. The lamp is pictured in Ruth Smith's book "Miniature Lamps II" in Figure 120. A line drawing of this lamp, taken from an Atterbury & Co. 1881 catalog is shown on page 146 of Catherine Thuro's first book ("Oil Lamps: The Kerosene Era in North America); Thuro simply identified it as a "PATENT HAND HUMAN HEAD" lamp. In her third book (Oil Lamps 3), Thuro shows a photograph of the lamp (figures "a" & "b") and identifies the "human head" as belonging to William Penn. Although Thoru does not explicitly say so, apparently the 1881 company catalog and accompanying price list identified the head as Penn's as well as labeling the lamp as their "No. 21" hand lamp. Thuro then goes on to make a slightly baffling statement: "I am not aware of any other lamps that represented living Americans". William Penn died in 1718, 150 years before the patent date on this lamp. And, of course, Penn was a British colonist and not, in today's terms an American. Giving Thuro (for whom we have a lot of respect) the benefit of the doubt, it is likely she meant to say that this was the only example of which she knew of a lamp made in the image of a real person.

That being said, we can only think of four lamps which are representations of real people--this William Penn lamp, a lamp shown in Figure 247 of Marjorie Hulsebus second book ("Miniature Lamps of the Victorian Eras") purported to be the bust of Scottish poet Robert Burns and two lamps (S1-491 and S1-622) both depicting Christopher Columbus. There are many other figural lamps with a human form, but none of them purport to be of a real person. We don't know why Atterbury chose to memorialize William Penn this way; perhaps it was because they were located in Pittsburgh and Penn was the founder of Pennsylvania.

The lamp is made of clear glass and is embossed with a face and head wearing what appears to be a British style wig. The lamp (as well as its clear glass chimney) flouresces, or glows, when viewed under "black light". This flourescence, what causes it and how it can be used to verify that a piece of glass is antique (at lesat 100 years old) is described in a note below. Although this lamp is pictured in a book on miniature lamps and is thus generally considered to be a miniature lamp by collectors, it is of a size that would put it somewhere between a true miniature (according to Thuro a true miniature must be a small version of a full-size lamp) and a full-size hand lamp. Note that Thuro pictures this lamp along with other full-size hand lamps. Its use may not have been solely as a night light; it could also have been used to provide some room, or area, lighting (although it is doubtful that it emitted enough light for it to be useful as a task light).

The lamp comes with the aformentioned antique clear glass chimney. The chimney has a crimped, or "pie crust" top edge. Both edges are fire-polished.

Condition of this lamp: This example of the William Penn lamp is in fine condition with no discernible chips, cracks or other damage.

The old brass hardware on this lamp has been polished. The collar and burner are both in fine condition with no signs of defects or damage. The burner is a size "0" Prong & Hinge burner and is marked on the thumb wheel "P & A MFG CO BANNER MADE IN USA" The thumb wheel does adjust the old wick that is in this lamp.

In the 2006 edition of the "Price Guide for Miniature Lamps", Hulsebus rates this lamp as being "rare" (see the note below on our use of these ratings in items). Over the past 16 years, we've seen just 11 undamaged examples of this William Penn lamp offered on . Of those, only 2 of them had their burners and an appropriate chimney, 3 had their burners but no chimney and 6 had no burners or chimneys at all.

About the Use of Words Like "Scarce" and "Rare"

When we see listings which utilize words like "Scarce" and "Rare"--especially when those words are applied to items that we know to be extra-ordinarily common we find it disturbing. We realize that some ers, not having or knowing of a better way of assessing an item's scarcity, use these terms quite subjectively and frequently based on their own personal experience.They simply don't know whether an item is common, scarce or rare. We take two steps to describe the scarcity of a lamp.

First, we only use the words "Scarce", "Rare", "Very Rare", "Very Very Rare" and "Extremely Rare" if the item in question is judged to be so by an acknowledged outside and independent source. For miniature lamps, we use the ratings in Marjorie Hulsebus 2006 edition of the "Price Guide for Miniature Lamps". Marjorie's ratings are also somewhat subjective (they are based on the collective view of a panel of 12 experienced miniature lamps collectors--we were members of that panel), but were at least arrived at independently of the sale or offering of any particular lamp. We don't always agree with the Price Guides ratings but if we disagree, we will still quote the guide's rating and then provide the reason why we don't agree.

Second, since June of 2002, we have collected and recorded data on the offering of over 63,000 listed miniature lamps on and over 7,400 lamps offered at selected live sales (ones which we attended or from which we were able to get reliable data). We have reviewed tens of thousands of new items; from among those, we identify those that are listed in the standard reference books and record basic information (identifying features, condition, sale end-date, etc.) on each one. When the sale ends we go back and record whether it sold or not and for how much. We keep all of this data in an online database and make the database available free of charge to members of the Night Light Club and to others who have requested access. We don't see every listed miniature lamp that's offered on , but we estimate that we see more than 85-90% of them. When we quote the Price Guide's scarcity rating for a given lamp, we generally also provide information, from our database, on the number of times during the period we've collected data that we've seen that lamp offered on . And it's this data that allows us to substantiate, refine or, at times, to respectfully disagree with the rating in the Price Guide.

Fluorescence in Old Clear Glass

Manganese dioxide (MnO2), found naturally as the mineral Pyrolusite, was used by by glass makers, as far back as ancient Egyptian and Roman times and up until about 1915, as a decolorizing agent in order to make clear, colorless glass. The natural material used to make glass contains iron impurities. These impurities impart a coke-bottle green (and sometimes brown) color to the glass. Manganese dioxide, added to the molten glass mixture, neutralizes the coloring effects of the iron impurities. Adding manganese to glass has a side-effect of which we doubt old glass makers were aware. While not itself fluorescent, manganese activates fluorescence in other elements or compounds. Clear glass which has had manganese dioxide added to it will glow with a green or yellow-green color when viewed under long wave ultra-violet ("black") light. This fluorescence turns out to be a useful test of the age of clear glass. The United States does not have large amounts of naturally occurring Pyrolusite; the mineral has to be imported from places like the Ukraine, South Africa, Brazil, Australia and China. After the outbreak of World War I in Europe, manganese became increasingly hard to get; first, it was considered a strategic war material (it is essential to iron and steel production) and, second, the normal supplies lines were disrupted by the war. And, so, after about 1915, U. S. glass makers switched to other decolorizing agents (e.g. selenium and arsenic oxides). Thus, clear glass which fluoresces (glows) under ultra-violet ("black") light can be presumed to have been made before 1915. [Incidentally, manganese dioxide is also the compound responsible for the "sun-purpling" of old clear glass; when exposed to short-wave ultra-violet light (present in sun-light, or in germicidal lamps) over an extended period of time, the manganese dioxide will impart a purplish color to the glass. It has been reported that unscrupulous antique dealers (especially in the Southwestern U. S.) would intentionally expose old glass to the intense desert sun (or to ultra-violet germicidal lamps) to create this purple color. Purists among glass collectors consider this to be a travesty and believe that intentional or artificial sun-purpling decreases, rather than enhances, the value of old glass items.]

[Note that is can be quite challenging to get an accurate (i.e., that looks the same as what one sees with their eyes) photograph of the fluorescence in the glass. We work hard to get a photograph that looks like what we see, but there is usually some minor discrepancy either in the exact color or amount of the fluorescence. Should you examine a fluorescent lamp under black light, in a darkened environment, it will glow, but may not look exactly like the photograph we provided.]

All rights reserved.

The contents of this listing are protected by U. S. copyright laws and by policy. The use of substantial portions of this listing verbatim or with only inconsequential changes without the express written consent of the authors is prohibited. Such use, at the discretion of the authors, may be reported to as being in violation of policies. Please contact us if you wish to use any portion of this listing in your own listings or for other purposes.

Our objective is to have happy, satisfied customers. We will work with you to satisfactorily resolve any problems. Feel free to ask any questions prior to offerding. We try to answer all questions promptly. Just click on 's "Ask seller a question" link above to send us an email through .

Please offer only if you intend to honor your offer with payment. All items are sold "As Is". We do our best to describe all items accurately. However, mistakes and oversights can occur. Returns will be accepted within 7 days if item is found to be not as described. In general refunds will be given as money back and will include the original offer amount and initial shipping costs (but not the return shipping cost). Refunds will be given once the item is received and verified to be in the same condition as when it was sold.

Shipping Information

's shipping calculator should show the correct shipping charges. We charge only the actual postage/insurance costs incurred. We do combine multiple purchases to save you on shipping costs. If you win more than one of our items, contact us for revised and reduced shipping costs. If you overpay for shipping, or if we inadvertently overcharge you for shipping, we will refund the overage. (If we underestimate the shipping costs, which occasionally happens, we absorb the additional costs). We ship using the United States Postal Service and wrap our items as securely as we can. All items shipped are insured. Insurance is included in shipping costs.

Information for International Buyers

International buyers not using Paypal, please use a form of payment denominated in U.S. dollars. We generally ship items internationally using either the United States Postal Services "Global Priority Mail" or "First Class International" mail, depending on the size and value of the shipment. If we can ship the item for less than the quoted shipping price, we will notify you and refund any overpayment. We mark international shipments as "antique" (when the item is in fact an antique) since most countries do not levy import tariffs on antique items. Import duties, taxes, and charges are not included in the item price or shipping cost.These charges are the buyer's responsibility. Please check with your country's customs office to determine what these additional costs will be prior to offerding or buying. Please also note that the receiving country's Custom Service may cause delays in item's arrival.

Interested in learning more about miniature lamps? Want to meet other miniature lamp collectors? Contact us and we'll arrange to get you information about joining the Night Light Club.

Please check out our other sales

Buy Now

  Shopping Cart 
(Your shopping cart is empty)
Subtotal: $0.00
View Cart | Checkout

  Recently Viewed

1.  Lacquered Cedar Wood Box
2.  The White Horse Established 1742 Sign Signed
3.  Pewter Framed Tile, Plate. Ship, Sailing

  Latest Items

1.  Basket, Handpainted,
2.  Apricot Wildflower Pattern Bell
3.  Jade, Jadeite Glass Bell, Westmoreland
4.  Green Glass Strawberry Ptn. Bell
5.  Aladdin Lamp, Rose and White Moonstone



Secure Websites

Online Payments


| Search Items | Member Profile | My Favorites | Auto Notify | FAQ | Links | Sitemap |
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tell Your Friends | Newsletters/Articles/Press Releases |

Antiques, collectibles, estate items, reproductions & art from dealers & collectors world wide at JosephMarc.
Copyright © 2004-2011 JosephMarc, Inc. All rights reserved.