Friday, November 5, 2010

More Lights: Early Bicycle Lamps

To enlighten you a bit more, here are a few cool vintage bicycle light items from the early days. It's fun to think that even in the 1890's - years before automobiles were being mass produced, we wanted to ride at night and see and be seen. And, the vintage lights that illuminated the way via an elegant orange beam created by a burning wick, were as magnificent as the lovely bicycles that carried them.

Behold the 20th Century 1898 Model (note that they call it a "Driving Lamp," cyclists being the first drivers).
Next is the same model, but here they show an alluring nighttime riding scene depicting the powerful Model 1898, "splendid in its improvements," allowing the cyclist to make good use of the half of his cycling time that's dark.
These vintage lights were built to last and they're not that hard to find and quite collectible. Here's a Union Lamp Company William's Globe made around 1897 courtesy of Transport Collectors Auctions. The vents on the top let the heat escape, while the jewel-like glass reflectors provide some side visibility. For fast and easy on/off, the lights' sprung mounts slid over a simple bracket found on the front of most bicycles at the time. The lens is a heavy piece of glass and it's also the door opened to light the wick.

From the same auction site, here's a bedazzling Bridgeport Brass Search Light ornately decorated to be as delightful during daylight as it was brilliant in the moonlight.

And, to demonstrate that the genuine item is as splendid as the bicycle ad for it, here's the illustration for the light shown in the photo above:
Hope you enjoy these treasures from days gone by, and have fun on your nighttime rides!


Khal said...

Thanks for the post, Jim. Fascinating.

I was commuting back in the late 1970's (back when you, Berto, Pavelka and clan made Bicycling a good magazine) and lights were still rudimentary or heavy compared to today. I routinely cobbled together decent lighting out of small motorcycle batteries and auxiliary motorcycle lights. Folks these days have it made!

Jim Langley said...

You're right, Khal. It's amazing how far bike lighting technology has come, and it's a great thing.

Thanks for the comment,
Jim Langley

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim

Here's a photo of a vintage lamp I took. I can't remember the details but it was some sort of chemical reaction that provide the gas for the light itself (hope that makes sense!)

great site BTW

Jim Langley said...

Thanks, Sotyred, I think that's a light that runs off of carbide powder that creates acetylene gas created by the carbide and water drips. You can read more about it here

Thanks for the nice photo!