When my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ home, we had to make many decisions about what to do with all the stuff. Which things are truly “valuable” and which have only sentiment in their favor? Should we sell it, keep it, or throw it away? To help ensure a future for our family’s heirlooms, I plan to leave a booklet for my daughters telling the stories of what they will inherit one day. (Not TOO soon, I hope!) With this challenge I begin my book of Heirlooms.
is for lamp.
One of my great-grandmother’s finest possessions traveled from her home in Shenandoah, Virginia to that of her daughter Violetta Davis Ryan in Harrisonburg, then to my mother, and now to me with strict instructions: It must not pass with the sale of the house. In other words, take it with you.
It’s this beautiful Victorian hanging parlor lamp - also known as a library lamp - which has been retrofitted from kerosene to electric.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the parlor was the most important room in the home. It was where family gathered at the end of the day to read magazines, to look at a carte-de-visite album or stereoscope, or to play a game of cards. The parlor also was where adults were entertained on special occasions. The focal point of the parlor was a center table over which hung a kerosene lamp. The large umbrella lamp shade helped disperse light while at the same time preventing a draft from snuffing out the flame.
The pastoral design in soft shades of brown, peach, and green includes a young girl in a wooden boat as the larger scene and a river landscape with boaters seemingly continuing the story on the other side of the shade. The kerosene pot is decorated with houses and buildings dotted along the river.
The brass hanger, font holder, and shade crown plus the full complement of prisms make this lamp truly exquisite. I’ve loved prisms ever since I watched Pollyanna charm that old geezer through the magic of prisms casting rainbows throughout the room.
In my research into the history of parlor lamps, I discovered two minor problems with my lamp. First of all, the prisms are missing from the upper prism ring. The second is the smoke bell seems too high. I think both issues can be corrected easily with the purchase of more prisms and some chain.
|Prisms on both the|
upper and lower
prism bands. And
notice that the smoke
bell is close to the
chimney - eh, maybe
too close on this one!
This lamp is not everyone’s taste. It doesn’t even particularly fit the style of my home, but I like what it stands for, so it will remain right there suspended over the kitchen table until the day my daughters are instructed: It must not pass ….
© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.