Beacon Lanterns

Canadian Lantern

I don’t personally collect Beacon lanterns, but I would be remiss not making a page about the classic Beacon lantern on a website about Canadian lanterns. My site is set up by manufacturer, but considering the history of the Beacon, I’m going to include it all on one page. I would like to thank my friend Allan Webster, for all his help with the photo’s on this page. All Beacon’s on this page are part of Allan’s fantastic collection.

I do own a pair of Beacon lanterns, one of which was the first tubular lantern I owned, they were gifts by a friend and have a special history to them. You can see my Beacon lanterns here.

One exception to my ‘I don’t collect Beacon lanterns’ line, would be a Beacon marked globe. If you have one I would love to see it, please contact me.

Origin of the Beacon Lantern & Sheet Metal Products

The Beacon production began in 1911, coinciding with the change of name of the manufacturer. In 1911, the Kemp Manufacturing Co. of Toronto, Ontario, changed their name to Sheet Metal Products Co. or SMP for short. The first generation of Beacon was nearly identical to the ‘Kemp’s Cold Blast’, except the name plate on the chimney was changed to reflect the new name of the company and of the lantern. The lanterns still retained the ‘blow hole’ on the side of the tubes, a user could blow into this to quickly put out the lantern.

In 1911, the lines of lanterns were:

  • No.2 Cold Blast
  • No.22 Dash Board
  • No.20 Searchlight

While I don’t have photos of the  1911 line, this is a 1909 Kemp Searchlight, other than the position of the Lift wire, this lantern is identical to the 1911 Beacon Searchlight.

Changes came quick with the Beacon line. In 1912, the Beacon design
was changed to now have a domed fount. This first iteration of fount was
not marked with any name. In 1912, Beacon lanterns were made with a ‘wrap around’ bail, similar to the Dominion Tubular Lamp Co. bail design. This design wrapped around the air tubes, on either side of the chimney.

In 1913, some significant changes were made yet again. The main and most significant change is addition of the No.3 Beacon short globe lantern. Short globe lantern design swept across all Lantern makers in 1913, Canada and USA included. This short globe design proved extremely popular, and would be made along side the tall globe design until Beacons stopped being made. Other changes include the fount was marked with “S.M.P. Co.” on the back, and ‘ Guaranteed Wind Proof’ on the front. The name plates stopped being applied, and were replaced with a stamped Beacon logo. Lastly, ‘hoops’ were added to the top of the tubes, which the bail of the lantern was connected too. Those hoops were imitations of E.T. Wright’s 1912 patent.

1914 again saw a change. This time the founts ‘dome’ was lessened, but still retained the curved edge. On the back of the fount the SMP shield logo was used instead of the ‘S.M.P. Co.’ fully spelled out. This would be the last change to the design of the fount, again until the end of Beacon production. On the tubes, a match striker was added to the crimped edges of the tube. The match striker feature was kept until the GSW era.

In 1922, SMP added the Beacon No.31 to their production list. This Beacon was a No.3 dash board lantern, but with a special bracket to be able to be mounted to the side of a buggy or wagon.
The new range of lanterns were the:

  • No.2 Cold Blast
  • No.3 Short Globe Cold Blast
  • No.22 Dash Board
  • No.20 Searchlight
  • No.31 Side-light

Some time between 1922, and 1927, SMP added the No.1 lantern to their line. The No.1 was a 00 sized ‘junior’ lantern. As well as the ‘Planet’. The Planet was an economy hot blast lantern. Cheaper than their cold blast line. This was to directly compete with E.T. Wright’s ‘Comet’ hot blast. The No.31 Side-light also stopped using the No.3 model and instead used the No.1 model. This new Junior Side-Light was named the No.11. The Searchlight and Dash Board
lanterns stopped being produced as well. The line of lanterns was now the:

  • No.2 Cold Blast
  • No.3 Short Globe Cold Blast
  • No.1 Junior Beacon
  • No.11 Side-light
  • No.0 Planet Hot Blast

General Steel Wares

October of 1927 brought about one of the biggest shifts in Canadian manufacturing, when Sheet Metal Products, The McClary Mfg. Co., The A. Aubry et fils Limitée, and the The Happy Thought Foundry Co. merged together to form one of, if not the biggest manufacturing company in Canada. A short time later in 1933 GSW would acquire the E.T. Wright & Co.  Sometime between the formation of GSW and 1938, a new line of Beacons was added, the No.01, an even smaller lantern I dubbed the ‘Beacon Mini’. With the new lantern also came a new chimney and logo design. The new design was only placed on the No.1, No.11 and No.01. The globe used in the No.01 appears to be upside down for a lot of collectors, however that is how it’s supposed to be. In the 1938 GSW catalogue, the Planet is not shown, which likely means production of the Planet ceased before then. Other changes include the new style of globe retainer, this style is the crossed wire style, over the vertical rectangle, used first by Kemp Manufacturing in 1898.

The GSW lantern line Circa 1938:

  • No.01 Mini
  • No.1   Junior
  • No.11 Side-Light
  • No.2  Cold Blast Tall Globe
  • No.3  Cold Blast Short Globe

At some point in the 1940s, the Beacon No.01 also was used as a side-light lantern. What model number or date range the No.01 Side-Light had, I do not know.

GSW Beacon’s remained largely unchanged, sometime in the 1950’s the No.01, No.1, and No.11 production ceased, but the No.2 and No.3 continued. In the early 1960’s, GSW made a safety automatic extinguisher for their lanterns. Rather surprising given the dying lantern market. This was essentially a ball in a cup on top of the fount, if the lanterns was upset, or jarred, the ball would fall out of the cup and put the lantern out automatically. While I’ve seen a couple of these, I did not purchase one (which I kinda regret, I like variations).

Sometime in the 1960s, GSW ended production of the Beacon, ending  over 50 years of the Beacon lantern name.

Variations & Utility Markings

Beacon lanterns were commonly marked with utility companies, public works, etc. along with slight uncatalogued variations. Below I have a couple listed.

Utility Markings

Often utility markings were stamped on the chimney, in the place the normal Beacon logo would be. Some utility markings I’ve seen are:

  • City Of Toronto
  • City of Vancouver
  • City Of Winnipeg
  • Department of Highways Ontario ( marked DHO on the chimney)
  • Hamilton Water Department lanterns weren’t stamped, but Instead painted yellow with HWD painted black on either the bottom or side of the fount, and often had a number painted on them as well.

Do you have More utility markings? Let me know and I’ll add them.

Uncatalogued Variations

Contractors, companies, etc. could requite modified Beacon’s to better suit their needs. I’ve seen No.2 Beacons with the founts extended by around 15cm. Also Beacon No.1 with Beacon No.2 founts. One of which Allan owns, his is featured below.

Do you have any other Variations?

2 Comments

  • Cary Booth

    I receive a Beacon lantern from a relative
    It’s very rusty but otherwise in good shape
    Not concerned of the value
    more so the history as I think it is a great item to display In the house as a conversation piece
    I want to keep it and would like to learn more about the particular lamp I have
    Can I send photos if you are interested ?

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