Coleman Lamps are better known and have been produced in greater numbers than any other make anywhere in the world. It is not possible to give justice here to the range of styles and designs of Coleman products, and I would refer you to the Coleman Collectors Guide, by Carl Tucker and Herb Ebendorf for a wealth of insight into the makers of the most famous of all lamps. The book (ISBN 0-9651407-0-9) is available from the Coleman Museum, Wichita, Kansas, USA.
W.C. Coleman was a typewriter salesman in 1899, but became interested in the "Efficient Lamp" invented by W.H. Irby. Coleman formed his own company, the Hydro-Carbon Light Company, manufacturing a "hollow wire" lighting system around 1905. The first Coleman table lamp was built for marketing in 1909, followed fairly soon after by the Air-O-Lite lamp, and in 1914 by the first lantern.
The company name was changed to The Coleman Lamp Company, and by 1919 the famous Quick-Lite lamps were in production. Instant-lite lamps followed in 1929. During this period Coleman started to market lighting products in Europe. The earliest advertisement I have in my collection is from the Dumfries and Galloway Standard dated October 1922, showing a CQ307 table lamp and an LQ329 lantern.
W. C. Coleman
Lamp and lantern development progressed, and lamps burning kerosene instead of petrol were introduced. In the 1930s, numerous models of cooking ranges and stoves were marketed, but Coleman's venture into electrical appliances was not exactly a brilliant success.
There cannot be many collectors without a model 220 somewhere, either fully refurbished, or lying about the garage or shed. This model started life around 1928, and continued in one version or another until 1963. My first 220 dates from 1935, and was discovered at the Newark collectors fair in almost unused condition, complete with mica globe. It fired up first time with nothing more than two new mantles and a quick check to see that there were no fuel leaks.
After WW2 Coleman continued to expand, and following a resurgence of trade in the 1950s, the company had facilities in the USA and Canada, and licencing agreements for manufacture in Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong and the Middle East. Lamps were also made in the England before and after the war.
In the UK, Coleman became strong competitors of Tilley in the outdoor market during the 1960s and onwards. Any decent Camp shop in the UK is likely to stock both Coleman and Tilley, both are still popular with real campers, though butane has more or less taken over as the convenience fuel for lamps.
Thanks to Herb Ebendorf and all the other Coleman collectors for their help, especially for their willingness to share knowledge and literature. This page contains only the briefest of comments on Coleman, anyone wanting to discover more can contact the Coleman Museum, Wichita, or the Coleman Collectors group on the internet. You might also like to visit the Coleman Europe web site.
To contact me please go to the mail page.