American Lamps & Lights

Until the 1800s, most Americans were lighting their homes with candles, an expensive and unreliable light source. Candles were often placed in metal holders so they could be carried from room to room without dripping wax. Elaborate hanging candelabras, which used cut glass to enhance the candlelight, were often found high above dining tables and ballrooms in larger homes.

Oil and gas lamps became commonplace as technology advanced. They sat on furniture and utilized ornate glass chimneys and receptacles to hold the fuel needed for the flame and feed the wick with oxygen so it would continue to burn. When gas lamps first appeared, wall sconces became the de rigueur. They were mounted on the walls of more stately homes to accommodate the gas lines that fed lamps with fuel.

It was not until the invention of the electric light bulb by Thomas Edison around 1878 that American lamps experienced their first real renaissance. At that time, several styles emerged that were meant to diffuse the harsh electric light in the home. Stained glass and patterned shades were two fashionable solutions to this problem.


Quick Facts

  • As new natural resources were discovered throughout America in the 1800s, in-home kerosene and oil lighting became much more accessible
  • Etched glass, while also aesthetically pleasing, served an important purpose in lighthouses by refracting and focusing the light
  • An original Pink Lotus Tiffany lamp fetched $2.8 million at Christie’s in New York in 1997, making it the most expensive American lamp ever sold

Recommended Items at Auction

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Handel Lamp
Oct 17, 11:00 AM EDT
Handel Lamp
by Treadway Gallery
Est: $700- $900
$4002 Bids
Casey Edwards Pheasant Lamp
Oct 17, 10:00 AM EDT
Casey Edwards Pheasant Lamp
by Auctioneers, Inc.
Est: $0- $0
$101 Bid
Antique Dresden by Carl Thieme Porcelain Lamp
Oct 23, 10:00 AM EDT
Antique Dresden by Carl Thieme Porcelain Lamp
by Atlanta Auction Gallery, ltd
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
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TWO 19C DELFT TOBACCO JAR LAMPS "CUBA", "SPAANSE"
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
TWO 19C DELFT TOBACCO JAR LAMPS "CUBA", "SPAANSE"
by Litchfield Auctions
Est: $700- $900
$3501 Bid
Adlake Southern Pacific Railroad Switch Lamp
Nov 13, 10:00 AM EST
Adlake Southern Pacific Railroad Switch Lamp
by Rail and Road Auctions
Est: $50- $80
$101 Bid
Pair of Hopalong Cassidy table lamps
Oct 20, 4:00 PM EDT
Pair of Hopalong Cassidy table lamps
by Chupp Auctions & Real Estate, LLC
Est: $25- $200
$200 Bids
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Large MCM Martz Ceramic Lamp
Oct 17, 10:00 AM EDT
Large MCM Martz Ceramic Lamp
by New Haven Auctions
Est: $100- $200
$200 Bids
Handel boudiar lamp
Oct 17, 11:00 AM EDT
Handel boudiar lamp
by Treadway Gallery
Est: $800- $1,200
$4000 Bids
Handel desk lamp
Oct 17, 11:00 AM EDT
Handel desk lamp
by Treadway Gallery
Est: $800- $1,200
$4000 Bids
JOHN RICHARDS FOLK ARTPAINTED ANGEL LAMP, 1995
Oct 23, 10:00 AM EDT
JOHN RICHARDS FOLK ARTPAINTED ANGEL LAMP, 1995
by Ahlers & Ogletree Inc.
Est: $150- $300
$750 Bids
An oak and brass reading standard lamp
Oct 26, 10:30 AM BST
An oak and brass reading standard lamp
by Dreweatts 1759 Fine Sales
Est: £600- £800
£5500 Bids
Modern Chromed Metal Space Age Mushroom Desk Lamps
Oct 27, 12:00 PM EDT
Modern Chromed Metal Space Age Mushroom Desk Lamps
by Hill Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $1,000
$500 Bids
NAPOLEON III BRONZE CANDELABRUM MOUNTED AS A LAMP
Oct 24, 10:00 AM EDT
NAPOLEON III BRONZE CANDELABRUM MOUNTED AS A LAMP
by Ahlers & Ogletree Inc.
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
Rick Strini (b.1964) Heart and Vine Art Glass Lamp
Oct 27, 12:00 PM EDT
Rick Strini (b.1964) Heart and Vine Art Glass Lamp
by Hill Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $1,000
$500 Bids
POLYCHROME DECORATED PIERCED TIN CANDLE LANTERN
Oct 24, 10:00 AM EDT
POLYCHROME DECORATED PIERCED TIN CANDLE LANTERN
by Ahlers & Ogletree Inc.
Est: $150- $300
$750 Bids
Hammered Brass Teapot Lamp
Oct 21, 12:00 PM EDT
Hammered Brass Teapot Lamp
by Willow Auction House
Est: $80- $100
$400 Bids
Rustic Standing Floor Lamp
Oct 21, 12:00 PM EDT
Rustic Standing Floor Lamp
by Willow Auction House
Est: $60- $80
$300 Bids
Robert Sonneman 20C Mid Century Modern Chrome Lamp
Oct 27, 12:00 PM EDT
Robert Sonneman 20C Mid Century Modern Chrome Lamp
by Hill Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $1,000
$500 Bids
Hanukkah lamp - Ben Gurion. Design: Arie Ofir
Oct 18, 7:00 PM IDT
Hanukkah lamp - Ben Gurion. Design: Arie Ofir
by Dynasty
Est: $0- $0
$1500 Bids
Rustic Log Form Reading Lamp
Oct 24, 12:00 PM EDT
Rustic Log Form Reading Lamp
by Main Auction Galleries
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
An Arts and Crafts style Mica Lamp Company patinated copper and mica hanging light fixture
Oct 17, 9:30 AM PDT
An Arts and Crafts style Mica Lamp Company patinated copper and mica hanging light fixture
by Clars Auction Gallery
Est: $800- $1,200
$4000 Bids
19TH C. HANGING OIL LAMP ART GLASS SHADE
Oct 28, 11:00 AM EDT
19TH C. HANGING OIL LAMP ART GLASS SHADE
by Kamelot Auctions
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
Andrea by Sadek Metal and Glass Turtle Lamp
Oct 28, 10:00 AM EDT
Andrea by Sadek Metal and Glass Turtle Lamp
by Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$250 Bids

Sellers Who Sell American Lamps & Lights


Rail and Road Auctions

Rail and Road Auctions

Hill Auction Gallery

Hill Auction Gallery

Charles Miller Ltd

Charles Miller Ltd

Ahlers & Ogletree Inc.

Ahlers & Ogletree Inc.