Many collectors are familiar with Emeralite lamps, those brass-based desk and floor lamps, named for their bluish-green cased glass shades and often referred to as banker’s lamps. Many others are familiar with Bellova lamps which were made in innumerable shapes, sizes and colors. Few collectors, however, realize that the glass shades and bases used in both Emeralite and Bellova lamps were actually produced in Czechoslovakia under order from a single American company, H.G. McFaddin & Co. It is not known where the metal bases were made; however, is it presumed that they were manufactured in the United States and married to the Czechoslovakian shades in New York at the McFaddin factory.
Early history of the company
Bellova and Emeralite lamps were the creation of Harrison D. McFaddin. It was in 1909 that the first Emeralite lamp, as we know it today, was produced. On May 11, 1909 McFaddin’s patent application for “a new, original and ornamental design for lamp shades,” was approved. Thus began the manufacture of Emeralite and Bellova lamps that were to continue in production for fifty years.
Essentially, the Emeralite lamps that are today most easily identifiable, collectible and with which the name Emeralite is most readily associated, were simply brass-based or brass-plated bankers style desk lamps with green-over-white cased glass shades. These desk lamp shades are substantially flat on the sides and the back and gently slope toward the viewer in the front. However, the shades have no sharp corners; rather, the angles are all essentially rounded. Using the cased glass technique, the shades were made of white opal glass on the inside with a layer of “green” or other colored glass on the outside.
It is believed that all Emeralite shades were produced in the glass factory of J. Schreiber & Neffen, which plant was located in the city of Rapotin, Moravia, in what is now the Czech Republic. Although S&N, as they were referred to by McFaddin, produced glassware for other customers, their contract with a representative of H.G. McFaddin & Co. allowed them to produce the green cased shades only for Emeralite lamps. In turn, McFaddin was required to purchase a minimum volume of shades each year. In fact, at the height of production, fully one half of the S&N factory was devoted to the production of glass shades for H. G. McFaddin.
Four periods of production of Emeralite Bankers Lamps
The production of Emeralite bankers lamps over the years can readily be divided into four distinct periods. The first period began in 1909 and lasted until 1916 and is known as the “4378 series”. These shades were perforated with two holes, one on each side. It was through these holes that the shade was attached to the brass armature of the base and could be swiveled and then locked into the desired position.
The second period of production, known as the “8734 Series”, began in 1916 and lasted until the early 1930’s. The bankers lamps produced during this period are those most often found and for which the name Emeralite is most readily identified. Unlike the earlier shades, the new shades were not perforated with holes. Instead, the bottom of the shades were indented on the sides and back to fit into the channel of the newly designed and patented (August 15, 1916) armature. The armature itself had four clamps which needed to be maneuvered into place in order to keep the shade snug and stable. Since the shade was merely clamped into the fixture, it could be removed for cleaning or replacement without disturbing the electric wiring that was concealed, though easily accessible.
The third period of Emeralite bankers lamps began in the early 1930’s and lasted for about five years. These lamps were generally part of the No. 9 series. Although the shape of the cased shades and the production techniques remained substantially the same as the two previous models, the newer shades increased in size from the older 8 1/2″ wide size to 10 and 12 inch wide versions. These larger shades also required the use of two bulbs rather than just one. In addition, these shades were now clamped onto the base only at the back, almost in a clothes-pin fashion. The shade was designed with an indentation at the back to fit snugly into the shade holder. Just as with the 8734 series, the shade could be removed for cleaning or replacement without disturbing the base or wiring.
The last period of the company began in the late 1930’s and continued for about twenty years. The lamps produced during this period hold little or no interest for the collectors of Emeralite and Bellova lamps and consequently have modest intrinsic or monetary value. These lamps were, to a large extent, fluorescent and almost all were made with metal shades. The collector, therefore, is interested almost entirely in the Emeralite and Bellova lamps produced before the war.
Bases produced during the first period were usually very simple while becoming much more decorative during the second and third periods. Earlier bases were generally brass plated over a base metal if the bases were square or rectangular, and solid brass if the bases were round. Bases made during the second and third periods were usually solid brass. Most lamps had a hidden cast iron weight in the bottom of the base. Generally, bases during the second and third periods were sold with a brass finish or a statutory bronze patina, although special finishes could be furnished to order.
Throughout the four periods, there were numerous categories of lamp styles, each category with a number of varieties. Models included lamps for desks, beds, floors, adding machines, side chairs, draftsman’s tables, typewriter tables and many other uses. Lamps were also available with optional removable inkwells, pen holders and pens, clocks and calendars. The inkwells, incidentally, were produced in glass by The Sengbusch Self Cleaning Inkstand Co. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin or the GEM company. The inkwells manufactured by GEM were usually marked EMERALITE on the bottom, along with the GEM name.
It is important to note that the starting and ending dates of the four periods mentioned above are only approximate. This is because H. G. McFaddin & Co. continued to manufacture shades and bases for previous periods for many years after they introduced the new lines. Hence, in 1940 for example, one could purchase a glass replacement shade for the 4378, 8734 or No. 9 lamps. Some of my catalogs from the late 1930’s for example, show both the 8734 and No. 9 line lamps as well as replacement shades for the 4378 lamps, which line was officially discontinued in 1916.
H.G. McFaddin & Co. introduced its Bellova line in February 1923. Unlike most of the shades produced for the Emeralite lines, which were smooth green cased glass, Bellova shades were manufactured in other colors, as well as green, or with an acid-etched texture, or painted with an air-brush or reverse painted by hand.
What many collectors of Czech glass do not realize, is that a number of the Bellova shades found today were produced in the standard Emeralite bankers desk lamp shape and, in fact, will fit the Emeralite 8734 or No. 9 bankers lamp bases. It has even been known to find the identical acid-etched, reverse-painted desk lamp shade signed Emeralite in one instance and Bellova in another, although the latter is more likely to be the case with the colorful and reverse painted bankers lamp shades, as Bellova desk lamps are often found in colors other than just the green that we associate with Emeralite. These colors include russet brown, Rhodolite (marbleized and opaque), chamois and rose. Frequently, these desk lamps have a one-inch reverse painted boarder along the bottom of the shade that reflects a floral or geometric design. It is not uncommon to find these Bellova desk lamp shades on fancier bases than the usual Emeralite desk lamps. These bases were sometimes designed and painted to complement the shade.
In addition to the Bellova bankers style desk lamps, the Bellova lamps that are most familiar to collectors of Czech glass are those that were made in two parts, entirely of glass and advertised by the company as Gnome lamps. These lamps usually had a glass ball-shaped or cylindrical bottom with a mushroom or “Coolie-hat” type glass top. Sometimes the top portion of the lamp was cylindrical as well, yet squatter, like the shape of very thick hockey puck.
Gnome lamps generally came in three primary sizes. The largest, which were about 15″ tall were referred to as Gnome Living Room lamps. The Gnome Petit Lamps were about 9″ tall, while the smallest gnomes, at about 5″ tall, were referred to as Midget Gnome Night Lights. However, other gnome lamps have been found that ranged in height from about 10″ to 12″. The Bellova catalogs did not specifically assign a category name to these odd-sized gnomes. Gnome lamps are usually obverse-painted using air-brushing, sometimes acid etched, rarely reverse-painted and very occasionally done in a cameo cut technique similar to Galle. The colors, etching patterns and designs were numerous. However, most fall into the category of either floral or “geometric Deco”. Some Gnome lamps depicted children or animals playing or Asian figures which were applied using “transfers” rather than being hand painted. Still other Gnomes had glass-applied handles on either side of the bottom part of the lamp, although this is unusual.
In addition to the desk and Gnome lamps, H.G. McFaddin & Co. produced an extensive line of Bellova lamps that were made exclusively for unique Bellova metal bases referred to by collectors as boudoir and table lamps. These lamps were generally smaller in size, although some larger table lamps were also made. In addition, a limited number of chandeliers, sconces, panel, Moderne (what collectors call tube lamps), and floor lamps were produced.
The tube lamps were usually tall and round, similar in shape to the cardboard inner lining of a paper towel roll. The panel lamps were rectangular in shape, flat on all six sides and taller than they were wide. Both the tube and panel lamps were usually cameo cut, although sometimes found as acid etched. Patterns ranged from delicate pastel florals to, believe it or not, a stagecoach with horses. All tube and panel lamps came on a flat or stepped black shiny glass base, either round for the tube lamps or rectangular for the panel lamps.
The number and variety of Bellova lamps appears endless. Even an experienced collector regularly uncovers Bellova styles, colors or patterns which they have never seen before.
In addition to Emeralite and Bellova lamps, H. G. McFaddin & Co. produced a line of heat lamps, called Thermolite, to be used for medicinal purposes and a line of industrial lamps called Mefcolite. Also, at some time during McFaddin’s history, they purchased a company which produced a line of miniature oil lamps called Glow Night Lamps. None of these three lines holds any particular interest for Emeralite and Bellova collectors.
Almost without exception, all Emeralite and Bellova shades were signed. Emeralite shades were either signed with a silver ink stamp, a rectangular decal about two inches wide and one-half inch high or a round decal.
Bellova shades were always signed, as well. The Bellova signature was almost always an ink stamp, although a round decal is very occasionally found. The ink stamp is about the size of a dime, usually silver, although red, white and other colors were also used. This signature consisted of what appeared to be a four petaled flower in the center of two concentric circles. On the outside top edge of the circles is the word BELLOVA and on the outside bottom edge of the circles is the word CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Bellova desk lamp shades were usually signed on the inside of the shade, near the bottom rim. However, many Bellova lamps have been signed in any number of other places. For example, if the shade is reverse-painted with a floral pattern, the signature is usually found in the middle of one of the flowers and is often hard to see. Otherwise, the signature is generally found around the top outside rim of the shade for the boudoir and table lamps and on the underside of the top and bottom halves of the Gnome lamps. Bellova tube and panel lamps are usually signed near the bottom outside rim of the top half. The bottom half of the tube and panel lamps, which as described above is generally black glass, is usually signed on the bottom with a silver ink stamp with the word ALBINOR. Albinor is the trademarked name that H.G. McFaddin & Co. used on these black glass bases for the Bellova lamps, as well as their black opaque desk lamp shades.
It should be noted that the methods for signing the lamps described above are the methods usually found. However, lamps have been discovered with genuine signatures in other less likely places.
Around 1939, H. G. McFaddin & Co. was purchased by one of its employees, Charles Inness Brown, when H. D. McFaddin chose to retire. Upon the company’s sale, the name of the firm was changed from H.G. McFaddin & Co., Inc. to The Emeralite Co., Inc. After the takeover, the direction of the corporation changed, as described above, from the collectable Emeralite and Bellova lamps to contemporary models which, though modern, are today far from memorable.
Emeralite Inc. started to become unprofitable in the late 1950’s. When Inness-Brown died in 1960, the business was sold again, at which time the company’s name was changed from The Emeralite Co., Inc. to Tilarem, Inc.. Note that Tilarem is Emeralite spelled backwards after dropping the first and last “e” in Emeralite. In 1962 Tilarem was legally dissolved. Thus ended the Emeralite and Bellova story.
The simplicity and warmness of Emeralite lamps and the beautiful artistry, colors and designs of Bellova lamps generate an immediate appeal to all who view them. Today, only a fraction of the large number of lamps which filled the homes and offices of America remain intact. Those that remain are taking their rightful place in collectors’ books. Their value, not only as functional accessories, but as pieces of art, has now been well established. We collectors are delighted by each new find and are constantly amazed at the variety of patterns, colors and shapes produced, particularly in the Bellova line. Our appreciation for their artistic creativity will continue to grow as each new example is found.