Welsbach Gaslamps Are Century-Old Fixtures Here

Riverton Yacht Club and Pier, 2007

Ask someone what things in town they think symbolize Riverton, and somewhere in that top ten list will probably be the Riverton Yacht Club and the old-time gas streetlamps. Here are both in the same photo, taken on a sunny August day in 2007.

There is just no place else which has this picture postcard look.

We here in Riverton may be “used to” the gaslamps illuminating our streets. To an outside visitor, though, it must seem as if a Hollywood set dresser has placed these nostalgic fixtures throughout this charming town in order to evoke an elegant Victorian mood.

Whereas most American cities had gaslit streets in the early 20th century, only a handful have retained the type of old-fashioned gas streetlights which have become such an integral part of many people’s memories of Riverton.

It is hard to imagine Riverton without its cherished gaslamps. Yet, there was a time during the late 1970s when it looked like Riverton’s gas streetlamps would be snuffed out for good.

Welsbach lapel pin

In November 2007, Mr. Jeff Cole, a HSR member and Riverton resident, presented a comprehensive presentation on the Welsbach Street Lighting Company which manufactured the original lamps. In it, he traced the history and development of the Welsbach Company, explained the technology of the incandescent gas mantle, told of the battle against the state Board of Public Utilities to keep the lamps, and showed some his collection of  Welsbach publications and collectibles.

Jeff is uniquely qualified to assemble such a project since he is the grandson of Mr. Robinet Cole, a Riverton resident who worked at Welsbach for a remarkable 68 years. In a true Horatio Alger story if there ever was one, the elder Mr. Cole worked his way up from being a 15 year-old office boy to the president of the company.

In case you have wondered about those gaslamps, or missed that Historical Society meeting almost four years ago, here is that same PowerPoint and the notes that explain the slides. Click here to download the 43.4 MB  PowerPoint slide show and click here to download the PDF file of explanatory speaker’s notes.  In addition, several rare publications used by Jeff in the preparation of the project can be seen in greater detail by clicking on the following links:

A handsome example of an original gaslamp post refinished by homeowner, Mr. Harry Richman

As always, we welcome your comments, additions, or corrections.

John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor

The schooner Lucy Evelyn, built 1917, beached at Beach Haven, NJ (1948-1972) where it served as a unique gift shop. Destroyed by fire, 1972.
PS – Despite these damp chilly days which have no business being here at the end of March, my thoughts wander to warmer temps and past summers at the shore. For me, it was LBI. I worked there several summers through high school and college at Surf City Hotel, first as busboy and then as a waiter. Look on the Images page for recent uploads of 87 Long Beach Island images40 Ocean City images, 10 Seaside Heights images, and 5 Avalon images. Those great linen-era postcards depict a number of things which aren’t there anymore, and most pre-date even my serving days at Surf City Hotel during the 1960s.

 

Welsbach torch
Welsbach torch - top view

PPS – 06/13/2012. A visitor named Anthony has a torch stamped “Welsbach Street Lighting Company of America” and he left two comments about it below. Since then, he sent in two photos which we display here in the hope that someone may be able to offer more information about it.

19 thoughts on “Welsbach Gaslamps Are Century-Old Fixtures Here”

  1. I am inquiring about these lamp post as I purchased a home 2 years ago and there is a treasure in my front yard, Yes you guess it! one of these spectacular lamps. It needs some repair It has been adapted to electric and the top shade it broken. I would love to at least find a top shade so I can show off this wonderful treasure/ If you know of any solution please advise, Meanwhile thank you for the history.

    1. Hi, Debbie
      Go to this post and scroll halfway down to the where I mention the gaslamps. There are links with info about the lamps that has been published on this website as well as links to a few vendors. If you live in Riverton, I suggest that you stop by or call Borough Hall and ask how to proceed.
      Thank you for stopping by our website. If you are successful in restoring your lamp and care to tell about it, I would very much like to have you write of your experience for our newsletter and website. Take some pictures as you go.
      Best regards,
      John McCormick

  2. I have and old brass torch that belonged to my grandfather. On the top it is stamped “Welsbach Street Lighting Company of America”. The burner part where the flame comes out goes straight up, unlike old brass torches where it goes to the side. So I am sure it was used to light street lamps. Have you ever seen one like it because I cannot find one on-line ?

    Thanks. Anthony

    1. Hi, Anthony
      No, I have not seen a torch as you describe, but I would be glad to post a photo of it along with your description on our website if you wish. Your guess about its use certainly seems plausible. Maybe another reader would have the answer you seek. For some reason a lot of users get referred to us thru a search because of our content about Welsbach streetlamps.
      Best regards,
      John McCormick

  3. We recently purchased a Welsbach No. 36 street lamp, and were wondering if you would happen to know what size gas mantle it takes. Thanks, Margaret

  4. I recently sold our family owned business which was approximately 90yrs old. In cleaning out the shop I found 3 Welsbach Model# 34 Incandescent Gas Lights. I intend to clean up and put in working order for eac of my daughters. However I am missing one mantle, and five shade supports. Where might I obtain these if possible?

    1. Hi, John – There is another post where I mention mention vendors who still sell Welsbach reproduction lamps and mantles Getting the mantles should be the easy part. https://rivertonhistory.com/2012/03/filling-in-some-missing-pieces/
      Finding replacement parts for lamps of that age is a longshot. I already googled, as I am sure you did, several variations on your search key words and no joy, even on ebay. Check out ebay, if for no other reason to see that your parts may have significant value to someone else who needs just what you have.
      In any case, good luck with your project
      John McCormick

  5. i have a Welsbach “Boulevard” gas lantern that came from the streets of Philadelphia. I was told by the original owner of my home that it was one of the lanterns that was in front of the courthouse. My street doesn’t have street lights and my lantern burns 24/7/365 – it’s a really cool part of history and now our neighborhood.

  6. I have 30 welsbach lamp post , Also lots of parts inc original globes. see auctionzip.com auctioneer #4959 for auction info.
    Thanks
    Lee

  7. May 1, 2017: This feedback cooment is copied from Tessa at TESSANASHT@PENNGLOBE.COM
    http://WWW.PENNGLOBE.COM
    Good Afternoon, I was searching for websites that showcase our products and company information and I came across yours. Yes we still do sell replacement parts for the BLVD gas fixture. Penn Globe is the oldest lighting company is America. We originally came from Welsbach! Our new website is up and running. http://www.pennglobe.com/products

  8. I have a Welsbach Model 36 The Boulevard gas street lamp for sale. We are redoing this a recently purchased house and this does not fit our new style. Looks great, but not our contemporary style 586 940 8015 if interested

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