Pressure Lamps International

Belknap Hardware & Manufacturing Co.

©AWMoore 2004

The Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing Co. were not actually lantern manufacturers, but they did sell and supply pressure lanterns made by others. In effect, they were another catalogue house in the same mould as Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Wards.

The company was started by William Burke Belknap in 1840, producing small easily made iron items such as horseshoes and nails. With just three workers, W. B. Belknap were located at in Louisville, Kentucky, at an address on the corner of Main Street, but business was so good that the company continued to expand year after year, and so did the range of products it handled. The name changed to W.B. Belknap and Co. in 1860, and by 1880, there were over 100 items for sale and the the company had become incorporated. In 1907, the company name changed again, to Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing Company Inc.

The the list of sales items was growing all the time, and by 1940 the catalogue contained 75,000 items; by 1957 there were over 90,000 items for sale. Throughout this expansion, family values were upheld, and the company became highly repected by the public and by its workers alike. This is relected in the University of Louisville's Belknap Campus, which was named for the company's founding family. Unfortunately though, through a combination of changing markets and changing management, the 1980s saw a gradual decline and final closure of the company in 1985/6. The ultimate indignity came when the Belknap buildings were destroyed in 1993 for a scene in the spectacular if rather unlikely movie "Demolition Man" starring Silvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock and Wesley Snipes.

Kentucky is home to the Bluegrass ethic, so it is not surprising that the name Bluegrass features in Belknaps inventory! The Bluegrass lantern sold by Belknap is in fact the Thermos model 8312. It is no surprise that the lantern is blue in colour.

I guess only small numbers of lanterns were sold, because the Thermos Service Manuals of the mid 1960s do not list Bluegrass or Belknap amongst the badged products.


Belknap, Incorporated records Special Collections and Archives University Libraries University of Louisville

Factory Photo: Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing in Louisville, Kentucky, 1929. From the Caufield and Shook collection, Photographic Archives

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