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Lambertson Extinguisher Weighted Extinguisher
Photo: Frank Harchuska
[Click here to enlarge]

Lambertson Extinguisher
Weighted Extinguisher

Lamberson sans filler Lambertson's burner
with no Filler Tube
    interesting lighting inventions     
The Lambertson Lamp Burner
Lambertson ad
Early advertising cut

The Lambertson Patented Safety Burner was manufactured by The Phoenix Manufacturing Company located at 22 Mechanic Street, Newark, New Jersey. The firm was established in 1877. They were the sole manufacturers of the Lambertson burner and made other household specialties as well. They were listed in the Newark City Directories until at least 1916. There is little else written about the company.

The burner was the brainchild of Spafford W. Lambertson, also hailing from Newark. In the patent document, Lambertson claims "The object of this invention is to reduce the cost of construction and to provide a more durable, efficient and convenient burner." The crux of the claim relates to the method of manufacture of the extinguisher device and the fill spout, both cast lead items. He obtained U.S. Patent No. 371,894 on October 18, 1887. Lambertson assigned two-thirds of the patent rights to William P. Cleaver and Julia W. Cleaver; the relationship to the Cleavers is unknown.

The Lambertson burner is a prong-style burner designed to accommodate a slip chimney. It was made in both the number
Lambertson burner
The Lambertson Burner with Filler

one and number two sizes, taking a chimney with a fitter diameter of 2-1/2 and three inches, respectively. It also was available in both sizes with or without the side filler tube - all examples have the lever extinguisher. There was also an aftermarket lantern burner available, again in two sizes, the number one size is depicted below. All of the burners are designed with a brass body and heavily embossed prongs and a nickle-plated burner cone. The weighted extinguisher consists of a brass tube, slightly larger that the burner's wick tube, and a cast lead weight around the base. The tube is often marked NEWARK, N.J. along the top edge. The lead weight is marked as well - sometimes with a patent date and Phoenix Mfg. Co. The thumbwheels are marked: PHOENIX MFG. CO / PAT. OCT. 18/87. The filler tubes have an embossed decoration along their underside and a crimped-edge cap attached by a small brass chain.

The burner is touted as Lambertson's Non-Explosive Safety Lamp Burner, warranted to last ten years. The burner was heavily marketed as a safety device.
Lambertson lantern burner
The Lambertson Lantern Burner

Excerpts from early newspapers (like the one below) and eyewitness testimonials are extensively used in the advertising. Nearly all of the attributes relate to accident prevention through improved design features, especially by minimizing the risk of fire through improved venting and the extinguisher mechanism. You can read more about kerosene lamp accidents here.

Mother and Child burned to Death
Elmira, Feb. 22. - A four-year old son of J.H. Miller, of this city, tipped a lighted lamp from the table yesterday morning and was burned to death by the explosion and fire which ensued. His mother hastened to his rescue, and battled with the flames until the little one died. She then ran from the house with her garments blazing and fell in the snow. Neighbors extinguished the fire, both on her garments and in the house, and called a doctor, but she died after great suffering in the afternoon. Her clothes were nearly all burned from her body, and the fire had eaten deeply into her flesh
--from an early advertising broadside

The advertisement lists seven merits over other burners:

  • The Lever Extinguisher - no need to blow out the flame anymore
  • The Safety Weight Extinguisher - shall extinguish the flame if the lamp is knocked over or dropped
  • The Filling Tube - no need to remove the burner to refill the lamp
  • The Safety Valve - the cap on the filler tube is designed as a blow-off cap in the event of pressure build-up in the fount
  • The Air Regulator - increased venting and airflow due to holes in the burner base
  • The Cone Deflector - nickle-plated deflectors increases light output
  • The Large Light - the burner gives a large, broad flame

Lambertson Burner
The Lambertson Burner - fill cap removed,
deflector open, showing weighted extinguisher

Judging from the number of surviving examples, it must have been a relatively popular burner, at least in the northeast, where I have seen it many times. While all the advertising hype about the safety features and increased light output may have little practical merit, the addition of the filler tube does. This burner represents one of few examples of an external fill device - it's simple and functional. If I had lived during the period, I believe that I would have been sold on this little novelty.

After I wrote this article, it was brought to my attention by fellow collector, Jeff Smith, that the Lambertson Burner had also been manufactured by The Plume & Atwood Manufacturing Company. I am grateful to
Lambertson Burner
The Lambertson Burner -
The Plume & Atwood Mfg. Co. version.

Jeff for alerting me to this, and thank him for sending me his example to be photographed and documented for this article. This burner is the number 1 size.

As you can see, the burners are similar in appearance, but there are a number of significant differences. The prongs that hold the chimney on the Phoenix burner are ornately decorative, while the prongs on the P&A burner are quite plain and similar to those on many of the P&A burners of the period. The burner cone, or deflector, is also quite differently shaped as evidence in the images provided here. There are punched-out tabs on each side of the blaze hole that serve as stops and limit the upward travel of the extinguisher when engaged. These are not present on the Phoenix version. The thumb wheel on the Plume and Atwood product is marked: PAT NOV 26. 72 / PAT FEB 11. 73
P&A Thumbwheel
The P&A Lambertson Burner -
detail of thumbwheel [enlarge]

The November 26, 1872 patent corresponds to US Patent number 133,397, granted to Lewis J. Atwood for the air distributor and chimney clamp springs. The second patent, number 135,749, granted on February 11, 1873, also to Lewis Atwood, for the air distributor and deflector. Both patents were assigned to Plume and Atwood.

The weighted extinguisher on the P&A burner is quite plain and manufactured without attention to detail, unlike the Phoenix version which is ornate and detailed. The fill tube and cap, while not identical, are similar both in shape and with respect to the embossed pattern.

I am uncertain as to the actual chronology of the manufacture of these burners. It is interesting that the Plume & Atwood version does not bear Lambertson's patent, which would lead me to believe that the rights were either transferred or sold to P&A after they were made by The Phoenix Manufacturing Company.



To view Lambertson's complete patent, click Query USPTO Database. This will take you to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Database. You are then just two mouse clicks away from viewing the actual patent. Learn more about the USPTO here.

Patent Number  

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