Armspear Lanterns

Among tall-globe lantern manufacturers, Armspear Manufacturing Company made products that were of unusually high quality. Their lantern designs emphasized durability and solid construction, a fact appreciated by collectors who are able to find examples in especially fine condition after decades of use and storage.

Armspear Manufacturing originally began operations as the Railroad Signal Lamp and Lantern Company in the 1880's. At some point in the early 1890's, the company began marketing a line of lanterns and other high-quality lighting devices under the name "Armspear".  In 1902, a reorganization led to the corporate name Armspear Manufacturing Company, which continued to produce a line of lanterns that were substantially similar to original Railroad Signal Lamp and Lantern designs under some of the same patents (See model comparisons below).  After World War I, Armspear entered the short-globe lantern market with its "1925" model and continued producing these in their own facilities until around 1931. This model can be seen on Various Short Globe Lanterns.  After 1931, short-globe lanterns with the Armspear name were produced under contract by Adams & Westlake until the 1960's, but these had a strong similarity to the Adams & Westlake "Kero" short-globe lantern.

Armspear did not produce many different types of tall-globe lanterns; in fact, their models were based on two primary designs. One of these designs is characterized by verticals made of flat plate steel, as illustrated by the lantern on the left, first row of photos below. This design closely resembled the lantern produced by Armpear's corporate predecessor, Railroad Signal Lamp and Lantern Company, as illustrated by the second row of photos.  Depending on the catalog, these are referred to by different model designations, probably because of subtle design improvements. Based on catalogs from 1901 and 1907, Barrett calls this type of lantern a #3 (a single-horizontal version is called a #4); whereas a catalog from 1915 calls a very similar lantern a "#106 Steel Guard." We'll refer to it as a "Steel Guard" here. Collectors often use the latest patent date to distinguish these types of Armspear lanterns, although even this is tricky because the lid and fount may have different dates! Suffice it to say that this style of Armspear tall-globe lantern can be found with a number of subtle variations, and collectors should pay close attention to these variations as well as the patent dates stamped on the lids and founts.

Few would deny the ruggedness of the Armspear "Steel Guard" lantern. This is due to the use of metal that is heavier than is found in competing lanterns of the day. Also, the design usually had two horizontals that were notched in such a way as to provide a high level of structural integrity to the frame. See the 1915 bulletin excerpt below for a description of this feature. Incidentally, there are Armspear lanterns of this general style that were manufactured with only one horizontal, but the vast majority seemed to have been made with two.

The second general type of Armspear tall-globe lantern was the "Giant" (the 1915 Bulletin called it the "New Giant"), illustrated by the lantern on the right, first row of photos below. This model used round-wire verticals and came later than the "Steel Guard" design that used flat verticals. However, even here Armspear continued its commitment to solid construction. The round wire used in the verticals was of an especially heavy gauge, and the whole frame was especially well-built. Like other Armspear lanterns, examples of these can be found in very fine shape.

Above Left: Armspear "Steel Guard" tall-globe lantern marked "N.C.Ry." (Northern Central Railway) with a clear cast globe and a twist-off fount.  The latest patent date on the lantern is 1897. Note that this patent date precedes the formation of the Armspear Manufacturing Company as a corporate entity and reflects the fact that Armspear apparently patents obtained by its predecessor, the Railroad Signal Lamp and Lantern Company.    The upper horizontal is made of flat plate metal while the lower is made of round wire. The reason for this is explained in the 1915 bulletin excerpt below. Above Right: Armspear "Giant" tall-globe lantern marked "S.I. Ry." (likely Spokane International Railway) with a red etched globe and insert fount. The latest patent date on the fount is 1913 compared to the lantern at left where the latest patent date on the fount is November 30, 1897.

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The ancestry of the Armspear "Steel Guard" lantern design is made apparent by these lanterns produced by Armspear's corporate predecessor, Railroad Signal Lamp & Lantern Company (RRSL&L).  Above Left: RRSL&L tall-globe lantern marked "P.R.R." (Pennsylvania Railroad) with a red flashed unmarked globe and a twist-off fount. This lantern has only one round-wire horizontal and has a patent date of 1897 on the fount. Above Right: RRSL&L tall-globe lantern marked "N.P.R.R." (Northern Pacific Railroad)  with a clear cast globe and twist-off fount.  It has two horizontals, a lower one made of round wire and upper one made of flat plate, just like Armspear's later "Steel Guard" model.  Clearly, Armspear used much of the same tooling to produce this model.  The latest apparent patent date is 1889, a date which precedes Northern Pacific's reorganization as the Northern Pacific Railway in 1896. 
"Fig. 103.  Shows the upright guard of our Steel Guard Lantern.  It will be seen from this that the notches to receive the continuous flat ring guards alternate from the outside to the inside of the guard.

The flat ring guards (Figs. 104 and 104A) are notched in harmony with the upright, and when assembled form a perfectly self-sustaining frame without solder or tips.  This feature is only found when the continuous rings are employed.

Fig. 104.  Ears are of a shape that causes the bail to assume an upright position, unless crowded below the center, in which case it will remain down.

Figure 105A.  Body hoop drawn in one piece for additional strength; has flat ring (Fig. 105) for protection.  The body hoop being drawn guarantees perfect fit to every globe and oil pot."

- From a 1915 Armspear Manufacturing Co. Bulletin

Notes: Information sources are Barrett and Dreimiller.