Pressure Lamps International

Knight Soda Fountain Company
Knight Light & Soda Fountain Co.
Knight Light Co.

©AWMoore 2004


The roots of these Knight family businesses go back to their earlier endeavours with The Acorn Brass Manufacturing Co. Acorn was run by the Knight family in Chicago until an acrimonious event occurred in 1909 when company president Eli Doud and his brother James were accused of trying to wreck Acorn's business. After a complicated law suite the eventual outcome was that the Doud brothers set up the Doud Lighting Co while James and Stanley Knight started the Knight Soda Fountain Company of Chicago, where they gained a considerable reputation with their "White Knight" ice cream and soda fountain. With the Knight brother's experience in the brass stampings and components industry, it was not surprising that the company at some point in time became involved with the manufacture and marketing of incandescent lighting appliances, and there seems to have been a name change to the Knight Light & Soda Fountain Co. The Knight family had obviously had a major involvement with Acorn Brass Manufacturing, and there may well have been some carry over of skills and design methods, although it's perhaps unlikely that there was friendly co-operation between the two companies regarding the design of gasoline lamps. Their address was 2701 - 2729 N. Kildare Avenue, Chicago. ILL. Stanley C. Knight, son of Stanley Knight, reports that his father only worked with James Knight for a few years before setting up his own company, The Stanley Knight Corporation of Chicago.

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There seems to have been a later divergence in specialisation, with another name change. The Knight Light Co. using an address at 341-351 West Chicago Avenue, Corner Orleans Street, Chicago. At this time the company concentrated on hollow wire systems, with each lamp capable of lighting an area 20 feet square. Where customers supplied a plan of the building to be lit, the company would cut the hollow wires to length, and supply a kit of parts all ready for installation.

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It was inevitable that portable lighting devices followed the success in the fixed hollow wire products. Definite information is hard to find, but a well publicised product is their table lamp #321-M, the Sunray twin mantle match lighting lamp burning gasoline. This was similar to many of the other designs of the period. The generator was the type with a single loop passing into a burner which was a little chunkier than other brands. Safety was a major point in their advertising, with a claim that the lamp could be rolled on the floor with no danger, and that "Even though it should fall off the table while lighted, nothing serious could occur". This was a claim made by several manufacturers, but it's not advisable to test it!

These images are from an undated advertising brochure, probably 1920s.

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The burner hood and shade holder may be marginally wider than the more common Coleman top, and the standard Coleman table lamp shades may not fit the Sunray holder.

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1922 Advert from "Popular Mechanics"

A final complication is that Knight Light and Soda Fountain also made lamps for Otto Bernz, and though these are only found on rare occasions, they provide evidence for other associations. Dr Jay reports: "The Bernz lantern is a Knight-Light made by the Knight Light and Soda Fountain Co. in Chicago. I would guess sometime in the 20s. Otto Bernz imported Swedish camp stoves which they sold with a decal added with the OB name. This is another bought in product in the same manner. The lantern has been modified with the addition of a blow torch pump replacing the external pump originally fitted. Knight Light product is often not marked which makes ID difficult. The first time I saw one of these I thought the pump was maybe a home made addition but I have now seen two more so I now believe they were bought and modified by OB for re-sale."

In their time the Knight Light Co. seems to be among the leading manufacturers of lighting equipment. They exported to a number of countries through New York and New Orleans, and would also make shipments via San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver. Within the United States they sold through established agencies, and direct to users in areas not covered by their representatives. In relatively highly populated areas they had representatives working on contract who would hold and supply goods to avoid the delay of shipping overland from Chicago. Catalogues were only supplied to the reps, and consequently not much in the way of comprehensive papers survive today.

Ellen Knight Ogle confirms that James Knight sold the Knight Soda Fountain Co. business in the 1930s for $3,000,000, and at that time the company was absorbed by Bastian and Blessing, later to to be taken over yet again. Jamie Shafer, Grandson of James Knight, reports a lovely story, in his own words, "I remember going into the local drugstore in the village of Three Lakes, Wisconsin, back in the '30s with my grandfather, for the purpose of buying (forbidden by my grandmother before lunch) ice cream cones. And there my grandfather showed me the soda fountain, made by his recently sold company - a very large and imposing affair of roseate marble with a handsome embossed and enameled metal plaque containing the words Knight Soda Fountain Co. and the figure of a knight in armor."

Knight Soda Fountains are themselves much sought after by collectors, but regretfully fall outside the remit of this web site.

 

References:

Pers comm: I am very grateful to Jamie Shafer for his recollections and details of the Knight Family history, and for the photographs of James Knight and the Acorn Brass Works. Thanks too to Stanley C. Knight, whose father was also instrumental in setting up and running the family business.

Thanks too to Dr Jay for information on Otto Bernz.

Other material was obtained from copies of Knight Light Company catalogues

Chicago Daily Tribune. Friday Oct 8th 1909 p11 "Jury frees Doud brothers"

 

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