Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

March 19, 2013

Kitschy and collectible: the 1950’s TV lamp

Linda Hamer Kennett
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — With the war years behind her and the hope of good times to come, America headed into the 1950’s.

A new spirit of optimism and a zeal for material comforts prevailed. The average household income was $2,992, gas was 27 cents a gallon, and everyone wanted to be the first on their block to own the latest craze, the television.

“Home theaters,” as they were called by many, became a reason to socialize as neighbors gathered to share a bowl of popcorn and watch Uncle Milty, Mid-Western Hayride and The Friday Night Fights. To get the full benefit of their new toy, people often dimmed the lights and sat very close to the set.

Eye strain from this habit created a demand for a source of indirect light and it wasn’t long before “TV lamps” were almost as popular as the sets they sat on. Both stationary and revolving lamps sold by the thousands spurred by ads recommending them not only for their decorative appeals but also as a medical necessity for preserving one’s vision.

As we entered the 1960’s, sets had become larger and viewers backed up and settled onto their sofas. The TV lamp, once indispensable, was packed away in a box where it would remain unnoticed for the next 40 years.

As we crossed over into the new millennium, a resurgence in retro/deco decor sent many scurrying to the attic in search of their old TV lamp. Pink and chartreuse, fabric covered and feathered, hip shops and antique malls began to offer these lamps from the past. Commanding many times their original dime store $5 price tag, these lamps now range from $50 to $250 and even more for rare examples.

There are four basic designs for which to watch.

The easiest to find are figurine lamps. A second popular design is the cone-shaped lamp, reminiscent of Art Deco touchier lamps, with perforations in the shade to disseminate light throughout the room. More difficult to locate in good condition, and on the top end of the price range, are prism lamps and motion lamps.

Collectors watch for lamps, with poodles, flamingos and owls. The majority of these will be ceramic, but you may also find plastic or painted plaster. More than a hundred factories produced TV lamps. Kron, Mccoy, Royal Haeger, Maddux and Lane are among the more prominent manufacturers.

Panthers, stallions, cats, mallards, roosters, fish, and gazelles are among the more common animal figures. In lesser number were human forms such as cowboys, Asian men and women and mermaids. Geometric forms, so popular in deco design, are also surfacing. Some collectors are drawn to dual-use lamps which incorporated a small planter or candy dish into the design.

Whimsical, exotic and outlandish, TV lamps are back and growing in popularity. Maybe it’s time to make a trip to your attic?

Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidator specializing in down-sizing for senior and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-429-7887 or lkennett@indy.rr.com.