Victor Samuel Johnson made the Aladdin mantle lamp a household word throughout
America. Born February 6, 1882, in a sod farmhouse five miles south of
Minden, Nebraska, he grew up on that farm, studying his school lessons
by the flame of a common kerosene lamp. He learned his lessons well, and
by 1904 was a bookkeeper and salesman for the Iowa Soap Company in Burlington,
In 1905 Johnson first saw the superior light produced by a German kerosene
mantle burner, the Practicus. This lamp was imported into
the USA by the Connecticut Trading Company. Remembering the poor light
by which he studied as a youth, Johnson recognized the potential for sales
of mantle lamps in rural areas. At last, people without electricity could
have good light.
Victor Johnson gave up his steady job in 1907 and formed the Western Lighting
Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The company obtained rights to sell
the Practicus, foreign-made mantles, and other foreign alcohol-burning
lamps. Soon after the Practicus was successfully introduced at a hardware
dealers convention in Kansas City, Johnson moved the business to
Chicago, Illinois. On February 27th, 1908 he incorporated The Mantle Lamp
Company of America. At that time Johnson estimated there were about 65
companies distributing kerosene mantle lamps in the USA and only 9 or
10 manufacturers world-wide.
Properly adjusted, the Practicus produced white light of about 60 candlepower.
The burner was designed to fit common American-made lamp fonts. However,
the Practicus, with its single wire mantle support, often went out of
adjustment, required constant attention and the slim chimneys cracked.
Because of these shortcomings, Johnson searched for a better mantle lamp.
And There Was Light....
The Aladdin lamp became a reality when Johnson acquired improved center-draft
burners patented by Charles E. Wirth (assignor to Plume and Atwood Manufacturing
Company, Waterbury, Connecticut). Early in 1909 Johnson introduced the
Aladdin lamp. He derived the name from the famous story, Aladdin; or The
Wonderful Lamp where a magician offered new lamps
The initial sales of the Aladdin were beyond all expectations. It was
so much more efficient than other mantle lampsto say nothing of
the conventional flat and round wick lamps of the daythat it quickly
made other kerosene lamps obsolete. Soon the Aladdin could be found throughout
the United States and Canada, and ultimately it made its way around the
Johnson established a small research department early in the history of
the company. His recognition of the need for improving quality through
research was ahead of the times. Today a research and development department
is considered vital by virtually all manufacturers.
Improvements and New Models of Lamps
Undoubtedly the preeminence of the Aladdin through a half-century of competition
was due to the continual development of improved models to provide dependable
operation, increased illumination, greater safety, and, in general, a
foolproof lamp. These achievements were largely the results
of research accomplishments by Charles H. Smith, Cortland W. Davis, W.
B. Engh, Fred Spangler and Eugene Schwarz.
The first major breakthrough were inventions, that led to Model No. 3,
patented in 1911 by Charles H. Smith (assignor to The Mantle Lamp Company
of America, Chicago, Illinois). Model 3 featured a combined mantle cap
and burner cone (KoneKap Mantle), improved construction and a new air
distributor or gasifier (flame spreader).
The KoneKap mantle was the first mantle to be made by the company itself.
In 1911 the company claimed to be the only lamp house in the world
that manufactures its own mantles. The company furnished mantles
for competitive lamps as well as for the Aladdin. The Lox-On® mantle,
commonly used today, was patented in 1931.
Fifteen models of Aladdin lamps have been made in the United States since
1909. Domestic manufacture was suspended in 1963 and Models 21C and 23
were imported from England and Model C from Brazil. Not all models made
in England were imported for sale in the U.S. More recently, Model 23
lamps have been made in Hong Kong. Aladdins (lamp bowls and fonts; not
burners) were also made in Argentina and Australia. $1000 Reward.
In 1915, Model 6 earned a gold medal and a blue ribbon in competition
at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at San Francisco. The Mantle
Lamp Company boldly proclaimed the Aladdin as the best kerosene lamp in
the world. An offer of $1000 was made for any oil-burning lamp that could
equal the Aladdin in 26 important features. This offer was never collected.
The Mantle Lamp Company established subsidiaries in Greenford, England
(1919); Sydney, Australia (1923); and Buenos Aires, Argentine Republic
(1925) to distribute Aladdins around the world.
The Alexandria Works
In 1926, The Mantle Lamp Company acquired the Lippincott Glass Company
land and buildings on the outskirts of Alexandria, Indiana. A new, large,
modern factory was built on the thirteen-acre site which was later incorporated
as a village with the name Aladdin. With just 22 residents, Aladdin was
the smallest town in Indiana in 1928.
The new factory was built at a time when there was still a large market
for kerosene lamps. As the 1930s approached, an estimated six million
farm homes depended on kerosene or gas for lighting. Aladdin now manufactured
its own glass chimneys, shades and lamp bases. The company soon followed
by making their own mantles, wicks and fabricating metal lamp bases in
The development of improved Nu-Type side-draft burners, introduced in
1932-34, permitted the use of glass for lower cost and design of colorful
fonts. In the ten-year period following introduction of Nu-Type burners,
Aladdin produced many of its most beautiful and collectible glass kerosene
Electric Aladdin lamps were sold beginning in 1930. Unique deco designs
made Aladdin electric lamps popular in major cities during the 1930s and
The War Years
Several events were to affect The Mantle Lamp Company during the early
1940s. As the nations war effort intensified, the manufacture of
electric lamps was temporarily discontinued in 1943. Aladdin was granted
permission to use copper by the War Production Board during World War
II and manufacture kerosene burners for glass kerosene lamps. The usage
of Aladdin kerosene lamps reduced the need for copper wire to electrify
homes and thereby further aided the war effort. The Aladdin kerosene burner
was used in the famous Servel and Electrolux refrigeration units which
preserved serum and plasma on the battlefields. The company also developed
several items essential in the war: a midget foxhole stove and a pressure
lantern both of which burned leaded or white gasoline; a barometric bomb
detonation fuse; permeability tuning for radios; and precision parts for
military radio equipment. Meanwhile, the thermos bottle became one of
Aladdins principal products in the domestic market.
V. S. Johnson died unexpectedly in Washington, D.C. on August 29, 1943.
His son, V. S. Johnson, Jr., took over the reins and provided leadership
for further growth and expansion after discharge from the army in 1945.
He initiated plans to build a new plant in Nashville, Tennessee, and to
expand the production of Aladdin thermos bottles. In 1949 he moved the
main offices from Chicago to modern facilities in Nashville, where the
Aladdin Industries, Inc.
Aladdin Industries, Inc. was formed as a subsidiary of The Mantle Lamp
Company in 1919 in Chicago to make and sell Thermalware® and vacuum
bottles. In 1949, The Mantle Lamp Company of America merged with its subsidiary
Inc.) taking the latter name as being more representative of its diverse
products. In the same year, the vacuum-ware operations were moved from
Alexandria to Nashville, Tennessee. Aladdins Hopalong Cassidy lunch
box changed the way children carried their lunch to school for the next
The Alexandria plant was closed June 30, 1952 after the death of inventor
and designer Eugene Schwarz. At that time all molds for the glass kerosene
and electric lamps were sold as scrap and destroyed. The lamp manufacturing
operations, by now greatly reduced, were moved from Alexandria to Nashville.
Domestic sales of kerosene lamps declined significantly during the ensuing
years. Inexpensive glass and aluminum lamps made in Brazil were sold mostly
for utility and emergency use. Export sales and the demand for replacement
parts were sufficient to keep lamps in the company inventory. The production
ofAladdin electric lamps ceased in 1956.
The Aladdin kerosene lamp gained a resurgence of renewed interest when
the company began importing attractive brass lamps from England in 1967
and reissued its 601 shade in 1971 and the Short Lincoln Drape in 1974.
Many colors of the Short Lincoln Drapes have since been made and the variety
of lamps and shades has gradually increaseda big change from the
previous decadeto capture the nostalgia of years past. Special limited
edition lamps were made to commemorate Aladdins 70th anniversary
in 1978 and its 75th in 1983. Several decorator lamps were added during
this period as well as special designs for L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer.
Aladdin has commissioned the Fenton Art Glass Co. to make lamps since
1991. The Grand Vertique, the first new lamp design in many years, was
created in 1994.
The Aladdin Knights, an eclectic collector organization formed in 1973
to collect and preserve Aladdin memorabilia. The Aladdin Knights created
much interest in Aladdin lamps and today sponsor an international lamp
show and sale. Their website is www.aladdinknights.org.
Changing The Guard
V. S. Johnson, Jr. retired as chairman of Aladdin Industries in 1985.
His son, Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General, Nashville,
currently serves as vice-chairman on the Board of Directors.
Aladdin sold its health care and food service systems, formerly known
as Aladdin Synergetics, to the Welbilt Corporation in 1998. The new operation
under Welbilt is called Aladdin Temp-Rite.
Aladdin Industries Inc. reorganized in 1999, changed to Aladdin Industries
LLC and Ari Chaney replaced Fred Meyer as President and CEO.
Today the principal items manufactured by Aladdin Industries LLC are glass
and stainless steel vacuum bottles; Stanley bottles and mugs; workmens
lunch boxes; several insulated beverageware items; flashlight products;
and related outdoor hunting accessories.
Aladdin Mantle Lamp Company
In August 1998 Bill Courter and Tom Teeter approached Aladdin to buy the
Lamp Division. With 11 additional investors from the Aladdin Knights,
plus a share of ownership by Aladdin, the new company was formed and the
transaction closed in April 1999.
The Aladdin Mantle Lamp Company is proud to continue the 90-year tradition
of manufacturing Aladdin lampsthe finest non-electric lamp in the
world. The company is building a new home for the Aladdin lamp in Clarksville,