Lantern globes as I’m sure many still know, are extremely fragile. In a utility or construction setting, it would be significantly more, and breakage was a regular event back then. So in 1929, Arthur Piper of the N.L. Piper Railway Supply Co., set out to fix that. On October 10, 1929, Arthur signed off on a patent for his latest invention, named “Piper’s Unbreakable Lantern Globe”. This new globe wasn’t made of glass, rather steel metal, with 4 lenses embedded in the globe. This new design got the glass further away from the heat of the flame, but also further away from the outside of the lantern where it could be broken by an impact with something.
Arthur’s design also meant that different colours (such as amber and red, green and red, etc.) could be added, so each lens pointed in a certain direction could signal a meaning to a different person. In situations like a 4 way intersection in a road, this could be invaluable. A potential problem Arthur saw with a multi coloured globe, or even a globe that needs to face a certain direction is that it could be twisted in the frame, thus making the lenses face directions they shouldn’t. So Arthur included a small tab at the bottom of the lantern where a wire could be inserted between it and the globe plate, thus locking the globe in a certain position in the lantern. I have since checked all the No.2 Beacon lanterns in my collection made post 1929, and all of them have a hole in the globe plate that perfectly aligns with the tab placed on this globe. Now I know my lanterns weren’t specially modified for these globes, so that means GSW purposely added this hole while making the Beacon lantern. I unfortunately do not know yet if this was placed there specifically for Piper’s Patent Unbreakable Lantern Globe, or if it was there before and Arthur adapted the globe to fit this hole.
Production Models of Piper's Patent Unbreakable Globe's
In my collection I’m lucky enough to have 3 of these globes, all of which are slightly different. Having seen other examples I’ve come to the conclusion there are two variants and 3 production changes, however there are possibly more still. Two variants relate to which lanterns they fit. The globes were made with short globe lanterns in mind, but a variant was made with a riser on top so it will fit tall globe lanterns too.
The first production model has the enclosures for the lenses soldered in place, which you can see an example of below. This globe also has the patent applied for tag stamped on it. This places the globe between October 1929, and October 1930. On the actual patent drawing, the depiction of the globe shows the same round soldered enclosure, making it likely that this version was the original design.
The second production model instead uses rivets to secure the enclosures in place. My globe fitted for tall globe lanterns has these rivets and also Patent applied for on it. So it was also made between October 1929 and October 1930, presumably later in that period as they changed from soldering to riveting.
Finally, the third production globe is the same as the second, but lacking all markings on it. For whatever reason Piper appears to have stopped putting their maker mark or the patent date on the globe. Of all the Piper’s Patent Unbreakable Globe’s I’ve seen, majority have been this style, lacking all markings, suggesting a longer production period. My postal cover from N.L. Piper advertising the globe is dated 1932, showing these globes had a production lifespan of at least 3 years, which makes sense that more are seen without markings if those were in production longest. N.L. Piper Railway Supply Co. shut down in 1933, ending all production of these globes.