F. Racek started as a company in 1925, mainly importing European goods into India through their offices in Mumbai. During the interwar years they acted as agents for Ehrich & Graetz AG of Berlin, marketing Petromax brand lanterns in India. Early lanterns were badged in this way, with the E&G name prominent above the Racek name.
Badged lantern plate, pre WW2
There is some confusion over the issue of manufacture, whether Racek actually made some of their own lamps, my own opinion is that they did not at that time manufacture any pressure lanterns at all, but commissioned German manufacturers to produce badged lanterns. These carried either the F. Racek name, or the initials F.R, later to become EFAR, and also the RAX brand name. The origin of the name is also uncertain, but it probably comes from central/east Europe.
In addition to the known association with Ehrich & Graetz AG, there is good evidence for an association with Hugo Schneider AG. The F.R. RAX 408 is a well constructed lantern that bears a great similarity to certain HASAG lanterns, the top gallery, burner and vaporizer being essentially the same. Bayonet locking of the pump into the tube and the style of manometer are also the same. These lanterns are embossed with words in English, suggesting they were made for the English speaking nations, and the "made in Germany" confirms a date before WW2. My own feeling is that this is a model made by HASAG in Leipzig, but that as their involvement grew, and as the shrinking markets of the wartime 1940s strangled world trade, Racek perhaps did look elsewhere for manufacture of a small number of lanterns. I can't confirm this, but the fact that EFAR and RAX lanterns often turn up in Germany suggests that India is not the place of origin.
There is a suggestion of dimorphism within the lanterns distributed by Racek, but until definitive evidence in the form of catalogues and product lists becomes available, we can only speculate on the causes for different lanterns having similar model numbers. Perhaps there is a connection with lanterns sourced from different countries, because Racek also imported badged lantern from Sweden. Alternatively, it is quite acceptable to have one model identifier with different variants having different energy output - the car industry does the same thing all the time!
Today, the company trades as B.K.Shaw associates. the parent organizations are Racek Industries Pvt. Ltd. and F. Racek & Co. Pvt. Ltd. with offices in Chennai, Delhi, and Mumbai manufacturing incandescent gas mantles, high power lamps, lantern, hurricane lantern, pressure stoves, wick stoves etc. Recently Racek celebrated 75 years operation during their Platinum Jubilee. The company still manufactures gas stoves and seamless gas cylinders. The current address is Shreeji Bvn., Lohar St., P.O.Box.2006, Mumbai-400002 India.
Racek logos usually contain the letter F R in ornate script, or the Racek name itself. The trademark is the image of a lighthouse, or a lightship, and there is reference to quality.
The Racek 408 is one of the brightest portable kerosene lanterns I've seen. I know this is entirely subjective, but given the variations in mantle performance and kerosene quality, the 408 produces adequate light with about 5 or 6 strokes on a nearly empty tank, and a light dangerously bright to look at, with less than 1 increment on the pressure scale. The manometer on this lantern is calibrated in kg/qcm (an old term for kg per sq cm, and 1 kg/cm2 is a little less than 15psi) The suggestion is that it was made in Europe, and indeed the fount is stamped "Made in Germany".
Although some opinions criticise Racek for poor quality and inconsistent numbering, I think that to be unfair. The build quality of this lantern is very high, and everything points to a well engineered German product. The Petromax lanterns sold by Racek were also of a very high quality.
Racek 408 RAX Special
Other models include the 608, which was a lantern similar in style to the Petromax, with 100 and 200 cp versions, and the 609, a 200cp lantern. For other pictures of Racek lanterns see the website of Apichai Kaewduangtien in Thailand
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