Sisters' hobby is fairy tale.
By Karen Rase
Daily News, Thursday, March 7, 2002
Do you believe in magic?
Three area women, who are sisters, are hoping a little comes their way this spring when they'll be out in force visiting garage sales, flea markets and antique shows in the hopes of finding little candle-burning lights known as a "fairy lamps."
If the response they've received from eBay is any indication, their collective inventory is in high demand--the three have sold enough fairy lamps to make a wood nymph blush. Although Victorian-era lamps are the most sought after, contemporary designs such as the StarLite series depicting children waiting for Santa, are also popular.
The sisters aren't sure how the craze began, but each admits they're hooked on collecting the 4- to 8-inch miniatures.
"It became a contest between my sisters and I to see who could find the rarest ones," said Judy Horn, president of the Riverside Historical Society. "Fairy lamps originated in England in the 1840s. The idea was to cover open candle flames to prevent fires.
"Samuel Clarke was a candlemaker and one of the first to contract glass makers to produce the needed shades and cups," said Horn, who's been collecting the lamps for 15 years.
Lamps made by Clarke, who went out of business in 1906, are Horn's favorites. When she's scouting antique shops, she looks for the candlemaker's trademark; a small fairy with a wand, embossed in the base of lamp. The design is accompanied by the words "Clarke Fairy Pyramid Trade Mark."
According to Horn, the lights come in two pieces--a cup and a shade, or three pieces; a cup with a matching shade and saucer.
Shades range from pressed glass to cut glass. Cups are made of glass, porcelain, brass, nickel and silver plate.
At first, we bought any we could find," said Horn, 66. "But then we became more selective and have started to downsize our collection."
Horn's older sister, Lorena Fuller, spent years amassing her collection, which until recently, numbered more than 375.
"When we first started collecting them, we bought the cheap ones until we started learning more about them," said Fuller, a Dayton resident and 1940 Fairview High school graduate. "My favorite was a red lamp designed in a loop shape. It was a 'Mailfea' and it was beautiful."
"It's amazing the number of people you meet who don't know what the lamps are," said the 80-year-old fuller, who favors the handpainted Christmas series by Fenton.
Fuller relies on her sister, Judy, to search the Internet for the most sought-after designs. The Fenton Glass Co. has produced more than 300 shapes, colors and sizes of the lamps since 1953. Other well-known manufacturers include Westmoreland, L.G. Wright, Moser, Indiana Glass, Viking Glass, Lord Carlton and many others.
They come in all shapes and sizes and have decorative descriptions such as "Fenton amethyst beaded carnival," Westmoreland Irish Waterford, etc.
Hand-painted blue Burmese glass, a Clarke reverse swirl Cleveland pattern and a Bohemian HP Mary Gregory style lamp are but a few to be found at the Fairy Lamp Club & Newsletter Web site (contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org).
"The lamps are getting a little scarce now--they're harder to find," said Fuller, who was an avid golfer in her day. During her longtime membership at the NCR Country Club, she won many tournaments and kept score for celebrities such as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, who came to Dayton for Bogey Buster events.
But now her interest is taken up in finding more space for her collection, which has outgrown her living room. "It's important to stay active--mentally and physically," said Fuller, who's hoping to minimize her collection in order to spend more time on her other interests--four grandsons and six great-grandchildren.
Lucille Peyton, 85, shares her younger sisters' interest in the delicate lights--she had about 175 at last count.
"I bought a few and it just grew," said Peyton, a longtime Beavercreek resident. "They were originally called 'burglar' lights and people would put them in their windows."
Peyton's favorite lamp is made of rose-colored, mother-of-pearl.
"I used to get real excited when I found one of the better ones, but I've slowed down," said Peyton, whose hobby began in 1983 when she retired from Lazarus after 30 years. Peyton, who has five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, thinks the lamps are pretty.
"They're art--and they're all different," she said.
All three sisters, who have visited the Fenton Art Glass Co. in Williamstown, W.Va., recommend touring the plant to learn more about the lamps.
For more information on fairy lamps or to request a catalog, call Fenton at (304) 375-6122 or visit www.fairylampclub.com, the Web site for the Fairy Lamp Club.
Books on Fairy Lamps:
Fairy Lamp Club Home Page
Fairy Lamp Forum