Vintage Coleman Lanterns



2015-06-26 10:31:36

Vintage Coleman lanterns are primitive gas lanterns created by the Coleman company.


According to the Coleman company, W.C. Coleman could see the light for the darkness. The young salesman was taking a stroll after a hard day’s work selling typewriters, when he spotted a new type of lamplight in a drugstore window in Brockton, Alabama.

This new light burned with a strong, steady white flame and was fuelled by gasoline.

The standard lamp of the era burned kerosene and produced a smoky, flickering, yellowish light. W.C. was stricken with very poor eyesight, and was very interested in this new, steady white light that enabled him to read even the smallest print in books and on medicine bottles. Coleman saw potential in the new light, and through his vision a new company was born that would put America’s farms and ranches in a new light, and would eventually make his name synonymous with outdoor fun.

In 1905, W.C. Coleman wanted to demonstrate just what his new gas lamps were capable of. He strung his lamps from poles on both sides of the football field at Fairmount College in Wichita, Kansas. According to Coleman historians, the first night football game west of the Mississippi occurred that evening under Coleman gas lights and resulted in a 24-0 shutout of Cooper College by the Fairmount College Wheatshockers.

At the turn of the century in America, electric service was not an option in rural parts of the country. When the sun went down, the work day ended. In 1909, W.C. Coleman started selling a portable table lamp that would became a staple in rural homes, and five years later introduced a product that would help transform the company from a local concern into a national necessity. The new 300 candlepower lantern provided working light in every direction for 100 yards and could light the far corners of a barn.

The Coleman® lantern lengthened the time farmers and ranchers could work. This significantly boosted productivity, and fundamentally changed the work dynamic in rural America. It wasn’t just for civilians either, as the U.S. Government declared this lantern an “essential item” for the troops serving in World War I, and nearly 70,000 lanterns were distributed to American forces fighting in Europe.

Collecting information

Coleman is not the only name in camping lanterns—Kamplite, Nulite, Aladdin, Preway, Ash Flash, and Sunshine Safety are a few of the others—but Coleman is the big dog. Originally sold in the early part of the 20th century to extend the work days of farmers, these gasoline-burning lanterns that were designed to bring light to rural communities were soon embraced by recreational campers.

The company’s first lantern in 1914 was called the Arc Lantern, or Model L, and it worked similarly to Coleman lanterns today, although the composition of the mantle, which actually throws the light, has changed for reasons which will quickly become obvious. The fuel container at the base of the lamp is pressurized by means of a hand pump. This forces fuel and fumes up into the lantern so that when a mixture of fumes and air come in contact with a special type of cloth called a mantle and that mantle is lit, it will glow. In the bad old days, such mantles were soaked in radiative thorium, which, when the cloth was burned away, would glow very bright. These days mantles are still extremely fragile, but their metal component is a benign metal called yttrium, which is also used in LEDs.

For lantern, stove and iron model year sequence records visit the official site of the International Coleman Collectors Club.

Price guide

A vintage Coleman Kerosene Lantern, "Sunshine of the Night ", sold for $20 at Scheerer McCulloch Auctioneers, Inc. in September 2012.

A Coleman lantern in a wooden box sold for $20 at Saco River Auction in July 2011.

A brass Coleman lantern sold for $75 at Fantasticantiques May 2007.

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