1880s Piper Bellbottom Lantern

The Piper family was in business for a long time, going back to the 1860s. Noah Piper was the the spearhead of a lot of this business in the early days, but by the 1880s, he was ready for retirement. His son, Edward Piper began taking over more and more of the business until he was the president. At the start of the 1880s, the Pipers were in the housewares business, supplying all types of furniture, stoves, lighting, and more for homes. It wasn’t until 1883, when Edwards younger brother, Hiram Liam Piper joined the business. Hiram alogn with Edward wanted the business to change, and change they did. Extremely quickly the brothers began moving away from housewares and into Railway supplies. Soon, they were supplying all kinds of lighting and other items for the industry. Many of the items they began selling they made, but there was one category they didn’t make, and ended up never making. Conductor hand lanterns.

Throughout Pipers long history post 1883 in the railway supply business, one particular item they didn’t sell was hand lanterns. They made Tri-colour lanterns, station lamps, table lamps, switch lamps, caboose marker lamps and all kinds of other lighting products, but not those. My personal opinion on why is the fact the market was saturated with makers already doing just that. Hand lantern makers were everywhere, but makers making tri-colour lanterns, or triangle wall lamps, well there weren’t many. My belief is that the Pipers chose to focus on things that they knew the market would be stronger for, and instead chose to buy small quantities of hand lanterns to keep in stock if a railway wanted to order them. I have seen Piper marked lanterns from 5 or more makers at this point, but never a unique one made by themselves. The lantern below is one of those made by someone else.


The Lantern

This lantern was made by the Adams and Westlake Company of Chicago. It was their typical style of the era, a brass top bellbottom with an adjustable globe retainer. This style was made from the 1870s to early 1880s and has the makers mark and many, many patents on the bottom, unfortunately the stamping is quite weak so it is hard to make out. Pipers involvement with this lantern is simply, they bought it, applied their tag to it and sold it to someone else. This style of business is called Jobbing and was quite common with lanterns. The interesting part to me is the timelines. Piper started in the lantern business in 1883, and this lantern was made up to the early 1880s. It’s quite likely that this lantern was purchased by Piper in the very beginning days of their transition into a railway supply company. In terms of a Piper item, this is a really special early part of their history and I’m so pleased it’s now in my collection. In the lantern I placed an early Intercolonial Lantern globe I needed a home for. It matches the era of this lantern perfectly and the two look great together.