Searchlight Bicycle Oil Lamps – Bridgeport Brass Company
The Bridgeport Brass Company of Connecticut U.S.A. made a series of the most attractive bicycle oil lamps. Pictured below are five different examples, I believe representing all the different variations of this lamp, although I stand to be corrected. The earliest versions are the plain ones, both patented in Feb-April 1894, and certainly still for sale in 1896. The model with the sprung bracket has rectangular jewel windows, whilst the other has the more familiar faceted jewels. The ornate version with the fancy embossing seems to be a later development with a latest patent date of November 1896 for the version with the hole through the oil reservoir. The emergence of this decorated version is borne out by the advert below stating ‘In a new dress for ’97’. This lamp is marked Model C. The 1896/7 date coincides nicely with the short-lived Golden Age of the bicycle at that time. The hole through the reservoir, presumably to provide updraft for the flame, was deemed unnecessary for the later versions, the first of which has largely the same embossing as the Model C, but is marked Model D. The last lamp has no patent dates. It looks superficially the same but in fact there are numerous detail changes. The embossing is reduced, for instance nothing at all around the junction of the body with the projector, and the top embossing is completely different. The fineness of detail is lacking in this lamp, and the construction is not so good as the other versions, so I am assuming this was the latest version before the lamps were discontinued most likely before the turn of the century.
There is some lovely detail in these items, for instance a match striker is concealed at the side of the jeweled window (see detail below) and even the bracket is decorated on the fancy models. The wick is fed diagonally, increasing the size of the flame. The quality of the nickel plating was very good, and this, coupled with the visual attractiveness of the item, has led to many being preserved in good condition. In my experience the plain versions are much rarer.
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