Without a doubt this is one of my most historically significant pieces in my collection. This lantern is a “patent model”. Back then, when a person applied for a patent, they were required to supply the U.S. Patent Office with a model of their patent. In 1871, Franklin M. Ford invented a new method of lifting a lantern, and applied for the patent. This is the model sent to the U.S. Patent Office when he applied for, and got the patent. This 1871 patent represents the 16th design of tubular lantern ever patented in the U.S. As a 20 year old Canadian, I am blown away by the fact I own this lantern. I received it from a friend and fellow collector who had it in his collection for a long time, now it’s time for me to enjoy for a long time.
Interestingly, Ford’s method would become fairly standard in lanterns, however at the time I’m not sure of any adopters of his design. The patent was for a lifting method with two ‘clips’, the globe plate is attached to the crown of the lantern by straps running down the side. These straps would turn into wires and become very common later on in lantern construction. Sadly on the lantern I have, the straps have rusted away.
The lantern has seen its fair share of abuse. Some rust on it, and the globe retainer is bent out of shape. As mentioned earlier, the straps have rusted away about half way down. I also believe these patent models were mounted on wood, there is some evidence of that but the wood is gone. The bail would have never been on this model. As Franklin was making it, I suspect he took the bail off to mount the new piece on top and just never put the bail back on. That said it’s still in excellent shape for being 148 years old!
An interesting part of this lantern is the fact Franklin Ford was just a person with an idea, not an inventor with a massive company. As a result, this lantern is pieced together from other lanterns of the time. The frame appears to be a Chicago Lantern Co. lantern, the clips are from railroad founts, the burner is a J.H.I burner from other lanterns being made at the time, using what he had to create something new. I absolutely love that about the era this lantern came from.