1898-99 James Hill Prototype

This lantern is a unique one. In 1898 James Harvey Hill, who was at the time superintendent of the W.W. Chown & Co, filed for and got his first patent for lanterns in Canada. He filed that for that patent January 18th, 1898. It took over a year until the patent was granted, May 29, 1899. This patent was for a cold blast lantern. One that was hinged at the bottom of the tubes, to open the lantern the user would hinge the top of the lantern including the globe, which would give access to the burner and wick. Much like how a E.T. Wright A. Hinge lantern worked. Jame’s lantern design was quite different than lanterns elsewhere. This one had square tubes, with corners bent twice at 45 degrees, “coffin corners” as they’re referred too by collectors now.

Only a short time before that first patent was issued, on April 15th, 1899, James Hill filed for another patent. This was a revised and improved version of his first patent. It too was granted and issued on March 31st, 1900. This patent retained many of the designs of the first patent, same square tube coffin corners, same chimney, fount, crown, etc. What was new was the lift and the globe plate. The lift was based closely on J.H. Stones hinge design. Keeping in mind Stone lanterns were made at the factory James was the superintendent of. Two pins connected to the globe plate slid into tubes going through the fount. Using the bail to press against the globe guards and lifting up from the bottom of the globe plate, it would lift the globe up away from the burner. The other change was to the globe plate. It was now ‘fluted’ as James described it. This meant cold air would be brought up and pushed against the globe, keeping the glass cooler.

So where does this lantern fit into all of that? Well it’s not hinged like the first patent, but also doesn’t have the lift or fluted plate of the second. It has instead a typical Stone style hinged base like the Stones short Tubular, and the globe plate has rough punched holes on one side of the globe plate. The globe plate is most definitely a factory part as it exactly matches other Chown globe plates used until the fluted globe plate came along. It is also stamped on the chimney “PAT. APD FOR”. The reason for the lacking and not fully developed parts, is that this lantern is a prototype. More specifically a shop made prototype likely done by James Hill himself as he was developing his second patent. The fact the lantern says patent applied for, but not lists a patent date, means this lantern dates to between January 18, 1898, when James applied for the first patent, and when it was received May 29, 1899.

First ad for the Defiance Cold Blast put out by W.W. Chown & Co. Circa 1900

There are no records of the W.W. Chown & Co. company selling this design of lanterns. All records and advertising point to the first year of production of cold blasts being 1900 for the company. Coinciding with the creation of the Defiance Lantern & Stamping Company, formed by James Hill and his Brother-in-Law William Chamberlain Embury. That lantern they released has round tubes made off the Kemp ‘stove pipe’ patent and a different Chimney. DL&S also never made this style of lantern, the first lantern produced by that company had rounded crimped ends tubes.

Those two patents James Hill were used by him and Embury to secure the funding needed for the pair to start DL&S. From of the success of that company came the Embury Lantern Co., what would become the second largest lantern company in America. This lantern is a prototype made while developing a patent that would spark the beginnings of the second largest lantern company in America.


  • mel zaloudek

    Interesting backstory:
    my researched article in the Sept. 2005 RUSHLIGHT CLUB journal is a full chronology of Hill, Embury, Chown Mfg., the city of Belleville, the patents themselves, and the subsequent founding of Defiance Lantern & Stamping Co. (as a CANADIAN corporation) in Rochester NY….the Belleville Public Library, which very graciously aided my research, possesses a copy of my article….very little of this lantern history was previously known…..living Embury family members who i contacted at the time had no idea why deceased relatives were buried in a Belleville cemetery, unaware that William and his father (along with James Harvey Hill) had moved there for employment at Chown, prior to their relocating to Rochester for the new venture of D.L. & S. Co….

    As a lantern collector and historian in the Chicago area, my acquisition some 20 or so years ago of nearly identical Chown and early DL&S Hill-patented tubular lanterns was my moment of epiphany into the long forgotten connection between 2 different lantern makers in 2 different cities in 2 different countries quietly working in tandem, as one….”long forgotten” no more….

    • Drew Goff

      Hi Mel, sorry for the late reply. A friend from out in California sent me your RushLight article a while ago and it was helpful in my research into Chowns. It’s true, the beginnings of Defiance and Embury are entirely tied to the Chown family of Belleville. I’ve been able to find directories from the area, that show Hill working at the Chown factory as the superintendent. I’m not sure Embury’s role, but he was undoubtedly working there as well. I know he briefly worked with Kemp and maintained some degree of relationship with Kemp after moving to Rochester. I’d love to be able to chat with you more. Send me a note through my contact page if you want to chat more.

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