W.J. Reid & Co
W.W. Chown made a lot of Defiance lanterns for jobbers, companies that bought wholesale and had the manufacturer put their name on the product, W.J. Reid & Co. was one of those jobbers. Located in London and Belleville, Ontario, W.J. Reid & Co. specialized in crystal glassware, lamps, tinware, and china. Their location in London on Dundas street was nicknamed ‘Reid’s Crystal Hall’ because of the crystal glassware on display. Obviously they also made an order of lanterns to add to their lines. Since Chown was located in Belleville, along with the second branch of W.J. Reid & Co., it was easy for them to supply their lanterns for Reid.
Disaster struck for the company in 1907, when renovations being done to the crystal hall caused the whole building to collapse, and fall outward onto Dundas street. 40 people were trapped in the rubble and tragically 8 died. The event became known as the ‘Reid’s Crystal Hall Collapse’. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find if W.J. Reid closed following the disaster, but with Chown stopping lantern production in 1908, the date for this lantern likely falls before 1907. A great write up on the disaster can be found here.
The man behind the company, William J. Reid, was an important figure to London, Ontario. He was the president of many social clubs, a mason lodge, chair of the western fair association, and founder of Labatt park in London (originally named Tecumseh Park), where he built a baseball diamond and started the Tecumsehs baseball team. The park is now home to the London Majors. The company he ran can be traced back to 1837, when it was started by his father.
W.W. Chown Defiance
In 1900, Chown released the Defiance lantern, sharing the design and name with the Defiance Lantern & Stamping Co. of Rochester, NY, which the Chown’s funded the creation of.The first Defiance’s made by Chown used Kemp’s 1898 patented stove pipe tube design, although that did not last long. The relationship between Kemp and the Chown’s soured quickly, and in 1902 Kemp sued them for patent infringement of the lifting mechanism of the lantern, a design both of them closely shared and developed mostly in tandem. Kemp lost the suit, but also revoked Chown’s use of the tube design. Chown switched to the smooth two piece tubes seen on this lantern.
A trend with Canadian lantern manufacturers to try and stand out was the addition of brass name plates on their lanterns, Chown was no exception. The Defiance plates are some of the biggest made, and are extremely ornate.
Restoring the lantern
Thankfully, this lantern was a complete breeze. It was painted black with a grey paint underneath. Leaving it overnight with a paint stripper was about all I did to this lantern. Cleaned it off and what was underneath is truly one of the nicest Chown lanterns I’ve ever seen. A light scrub with steel wool and WD40 to finish it off.
It did have a massive dent in the brim, right under the tube. Using Allen wrenches of various sizes I was able to slowly pull most of that dent out. Certainly looking much better than original.
Overall, one of the nicest Chown’s I’ve seen and easily one of my new favourite lanterns.