Adams & Westlake Tall-Globe Lanterns I

The Adams & Westlake Company (A&W) was a major manufacturer of tall globe lanterns and is credited with many innovations.   At its peak, the company made many other types of railroad hardware as well, including locks, keys, lamps, and various passenger car fixtures. A&W's production of tall lanterns began in the post-Civil War period and extended to the mid-1920's, perhaps somewhat later. From about the mid 1920's onward, A&W's lantern production switched to short globe models, and the company is still in business in Elkhart, Indiana.   They even have a website.

There is currently no standard system for designating all the different A&W tall lantern models, although recent references by Barrett and especially Cunningham have taken steps in this direction. This task is especially complex because of the numerous variations that were produced. For example, the most popular A&W tall globe model, the "Reliable", can be found in a dozen or more combinations of different features, not counting distinct railroad markings which number over 250. Over the years, collectors have gradually developed some common terminology for describing the features of different models. However, even here, the terms used by collectors often vary from the terms used by the manufacturer. For example, the illustration at left was taken from an A&W 1918 catalog and shows what the company describes as a "#11 Wire Guard Railroad Lantern". Collectors would refer to this as a "Reliable with a one-piece top and wire bottom". Note the similarity between the lantern illustration and the first example shown on the Reliable page. Among the features of this lantern described by the A&W catalog are a "Removable Top Globe Holder" and "Encased Oil Pot, " which collectors would call a "globe retainer" and "insert fount", respectively. If this lantern had flat verticals instead of round wire verticals, A&W would have used the term "steel guard" instead of "wire guard."

Identifying the dates of manufacture for A&W tall lanterns is also not easy, again owing to the many variations that are found. Many lantern features such as the type of horizontals, verticals, etc. were interchanged among various models, particularly in so-called "transition" models, for example when A&W was changing from "The Adams" model to the "Reliable" model. Also it is well known that railroads, their employees, and, in some cases, collectors, have combined parts from different models to produce a functioning lantern. For example, it is common to find a burner from a short globe lantern in a tall globe model.  Therefore any given lantern feature may not be particularly helpful in determining age, a least to any degree of precision.  It is true that most (but not all) A&W lanterns have dates stamped on the lid, but these are patent dates, not manufacturing dates. At best, the collector knows that a given lantern was manufactured after the patent date shown, but exactly how much afterwards is not known. The manufacturing time-spans that are given in references are largely based on catalogs that have survived and from patent date information, and these spans can give only an approximate idea of age.

The lanterns below and on the following page (follow the links below) represent a few of the more common pre-Reliable A&W tall globe models, presented more or less in chronological order.  Information on manufacturing dates and models comes from A&W catalog illustrations and Cunningham.  When a model identification is based on a date, e.g., "Model 1895", that date is the latest patent date stamped on the lid. 
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Bellbottom Variations.  In the tall globe lantern era, A&W (as well as other companies) produced lanterns with many variations, likely reflecting customer requests as well as minor changes in design.  This lineup illustrates variations in the same basic model, the #39 Wire Guard Lantern with a bellbottom.  This lantern style was made from around 1890 to 1909; however, the lantern itself has no dates of any kind stamped on the frame. One feature of this model is the use of round wire to form the verticals which are attached to the base by solder. Above Left: An example marked "PRR" (Pennsylvania Railroad) with a twist-off bellbottom base that is 7" in diameter. The height to the top of the smoke dome is 11".   Above Center: A similar model marked "P.C.C. & St.L. Ry. (Pittsburgh, Cincinnatti, Chicago & St. Louis Railway) but with a 6.75" bell and 10.25" of height.  Above Right: Again, the same basic model marked "P. & L.E. R.R." (Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad) but with a 6" base and 10" of height. 
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Two examples of the A&W #11 Wire Guard (Model 1895) Lantern.  This lantern style was made from the mid-1890's to around 1909 and is distinguished by a single patent date of May 28, 1895 on the lid. No other patent dates are listed. Left: An example marked "B. & O. R.R." (Baltimore & Ohio Railroad) with a dark red cast globe and a twist-off fount. Right: An example marked "L.S. & M.S. Ry." (Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway) with an clear cast globe and insert fount.

Also See

A&W Tall Lanterns II:  The Adams
A&W Reliable Lanterns