Pressure Lamps International

Belknap Hardware & Manufacturing Co.

111 East Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

©AWMoore 20016


The Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing Co. although prolific manufacturers of hardware 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.

William B Belknap

W.B. Belknap

The company was started in 1840 by William Burke Belknap (1811-1884), producing small easily made iron items such as horseshoes and nails that were essential commodities for the growing town. With just three workers, the shop named W. B. Belknap was 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, with the founder's son William Richardson Belknap taking over. In 1907, the company name changed again, to Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing Company Inc.

Belknap letterhead

Company heading

One of the main lamp brands sold by Belknap Hardware were, not surprisingly, made by Coleman. In fact in the 1920s the catalogue entries simply listed the lamps as "Coleman". At this time the Belknap Building was the largest single-unit hardware plant in the world.

bk1922 ad

Coleman lamps shown in Belknap's catalogue, 1922

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 including many sporting and leisure products. Throughout this expansion, family values were upheld, and the company became highly respected by the public and by its workers alike. This is reflected 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.

 

bkfactory

belknapdemo

Belknap Building Demolition (from flickr - stevebilliejene, also brokensidewalk.com )

 

Kentucky is home to the Bluegrass ethic, so it is not surprising that the name Bluegrass (or Blue Grass) features in Belknap's inventory! In fact the Bluegrass trademark was registered to Belknap in 1954. 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 a relatively small numbers of lanterns were sold, because the Thermos Service Manuals of the mid 1960s do not list Bluegrass or Belknap among the badged products.

The company finally ceased trading in 1986 after filing for bankruptcy during the previous year, so one hundred and forty years of trading came to an end.


References:

Belknap, Incorporated records http://special.library.louisville.edu/display-collection.asp?ID=619 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

The Winchester * Keen Kutter * Diamond Edge Chronicles (2002) Web page: http://www.thckk.org/belknap-bluegrass-hist.html

Lost Louisville: Belknap Warehouses brokensidewalk.com

Wikipedia: Belknap Hardware

 

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