A Short History of Aladdin’s Magic Lamps

The Aladdin Genie III lamp, replacement chimney and mantles are in stock now at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio or Lehmans.com.

The Aladdin Genie III lamp with replacement parts kit is in stock now at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio or Lehmans.com.

Being a man, I like to collect – or maybe a better word would be to “amass” – tools. And the rule of thumb when buying tools you intend to use often is to “buy the best quality you can afford.” The same holds true for appliances you intend to use in your home. To that end, the best oil lamp you can own is an Aladdin lamp.

Just like the way all Clydesdales are horses but not all horses are Clydesdales, or all Corvettes are cars but not all cars are Corvettes, likewise all Aladdins are oil-burning lamps … but all oil burners are definitely not an Aladdin.

An Aladdin lamp burns better, more efficient and looks good doing it. Whether aluminum, brass, clear or colored glass base, pedestal, lamp or hanging, these lamps are built to offer more than a lifetime of dependable use.

In Aladdin: The Magic Name In Lamps, author and historian J.W. Courter lays out the colorful history of the birth and rebirth of Aladdin lamps. Beginning when Victor Johnson formed the Western Lighting Company in 1907, the company was incorporated in 1908, and Johnson named the business Mantle Lamp Company of America.

It’s said the Mantle Lamp Company’s great success came from the use and advertisement of American-made parts. At the turn of the century, more than 100 companies were selling oil lamps in North America, but most were using German-made parts. With the onset of World War I, the German parts supply dried up. By the war’s end there were just a handful of companies still making lamps in America.

1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition
Johnson’s company got a huge boost when its product won a gold medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, Calif. The Mantle Lamp Company rose to the top of the lighting ranks. A year earlier the company had spun off a new subsidiary called Aladdin Industries and its patented “Aladdin” lamp with newly-designed parts meant the start of the iconic lamp carrying the name made famous in the Middle Eastern folk tale included in the popular The Book Of One Thousand And One Nights (Arabian Nights).

An interesting side note, Aladdin Industries was a leader in using independent door-to-door salesmen. The Aladdin sales force bought a demonstration kit and then sold lamps – which they purchased at wholesale from the company – as they traveled the cities and countryside. To keep customers interested, Johnson tried to create a new product each year. Some years, it was just a new model number. In others, there were mechanical improvements, or  changes in appearance.

Choose from many styles of Aladdin lamps at Lehman's, including this brass model. At Lehman's in Kidron, OH, or Lehmans.com.

Choose from many styles of Aladdin lamps at Lehman’s, including this brass model. At Lehman’s in Kidron, OH, or Lehmans.com.

Nowadays you can easily buy a new brass Aladdin lamp. But when the United States entered World War II in December of 1941, it wasn’t long until brass became rationed to make shell casings for the war effort. Despite the trying times, Aladdin was permitted to continue using brass to make burners. After all, even though America was nearly halfway through the twentieth century, much of the U.S. population was still living without electricity.

The company began using its award-winning burner knowledge to build refrigerators, stoves, food preparation and other equipment for military uses. By 1949, Aladdin became the primary company, with the Mantle Lamp Company taking a back seat.

Post-war America was becoming more dependent on electricity. Then in 1954, part of the company’s tooling was destroyed in a flood. By then the lamp business represented only a small portion of the company’s annual profits. Couter notes that for the next 40 years or so, Aladdin continued making limited quantities of lamps despite minimal profits.

Aladdin Blue BullseyeAladdin Lamps Available Today
In 1999 a group of Aladdin fans, headed by Courter himself and business partner Tom Teeter, purchased the mantle lamp business from Aladdin Industries. Teeter already owned another company making quality oil lamps, and with the rights to Aladdin’s rich history and patents, the number of models of available Aladdin lamps increased tremendously. Today you can buy a dozen different Aladdin lamps from Lehman’s Country Store, along with all the accessories needed to use it.

For the home, you might want to consider Aladdin’s Blue Bullseye Lamp. Made exclusively for Lehman’s, the blue bullseye was first cast in the late 19th century by the Diamond Glass Company. It’s a huge favorite with both lamp and art glass collectors. Other great lamps for home or cabin use include the company’s Genie III with its dimpled glass bowl–it puts out a powerful amount of light. You can choose from a variety of decorative shades too.

The aluminum shelf lamp or a table lamp with built-in stand are ideal lamps for cabins, campsites or trailers. The rustic and rugged light is a favorite among missionaries and outdoors enthusiasts due to its unbreakable base.

If you love the look of a brass lamp, you have plenty of options. There’s a brass table lamp in two sizes, and a brass hanging lamp. The hanging lamps comes with an opal shade and burns up to 18 hours with refilling.

Aladdin Lamp OilWhat To Order
When ordering the Aladdin lamps, the best value is the lamp and parts kit option. You’ll get a spare chimney and two spare mantles, so you’ll never have to worry about being caught in the dark.

For the traditionalists, Lehman’s also carries accessories needed to light with oil lamps. The list includes a funnel with a filter screen, with a neck that will fit most font fill holes. For best result, use genuine Aladdin distilled lamp oil which burns free of odor. You’ll get the longest burning times, and the best performance for your Aladdin lamp with this fuel.

And if you intend to use your Aladdin or other oil lamps frequently and purchase the fuel in gallon quantities, it might be worth investing in a lamp oil pump. Other fuels are available that can burn in the Aladdin lamp, although they won’t produce the odor-free, clean burning time of genuine Aladdin lamp oil.

While we have electricity in our home, we find it soothing and enjoyable to spend evenings going about our home chores and relaxation by lamp light. The glow from an oil lamp versus an electric bulb is similar to the difference between heat from a wood stove or fireplace as compared to an electric forced-air furnace. Both serve the purpose, but the lamp just offers more “home-iness”.

Questions about conversion? Call Lehman's at 1-888-438-5346.

Questions about conversion? Call Lehman’s at 1-888-438-5346.

For many folks who want to use your Aladdin lamp for lighting but for whatever reason don’t want to utilize kerosene or lamp oil, choose an electric conversion burner to easily modify an Aladdin to allow use of an “under the mantle” electric bulb.

Whether you light your home, cabin or camper without electricity, or you simply want to enjoy the simple, relaxing glow of an oil lamp in the evenings like my family does, the top name in lamp quality is the same as it has been for the past nearly 100 years…Aladdin.

About doug smith

Doug Smith is a small town newspaper managing editor. He has also been a freelance writer for rural living, country life, tourism, and hunting and fishing publications for the past 12 years. He lives in an 1880s Victorian-style home in the Missouri Ozarks. He drives an old pickup truck, tinkers with old tractors, is married to a young woman, they have two beautiful and successful children, and he can be found any given day around town wearing his Buffalo plaid flannel jacket and matching Elmer Fudd hat.