Pressure Lamps International

Piepgras Light Company.
Powers Building, Tinley Park, Illinois

©AWMoore 2004


pg1

Little is known of the early years on the Piepgras Light Company, but it seems likely that it's roots and it's founders lie in the German community that settled in Illinois during the mid 1800s. The settlement village was originally called Bremen, after the German town, but the name was changed in 1890 to Tinley Park to honour the name of the railway agent, Samuel Tinley.

Piepgras is a German name, and it seems likely that whoever started the Piepgras Light Co was descended from the early European settlers. One "S. Piepgras" is listed as an important company person, but details are rather hard to determine. Incidentally, Piepgras roughly translates as Peep Grass - and that's exactly how one of the sales brochures says the name should be pronounced - "Peep-grass".

It is known that the Piepgras Light Company operated out of Tinley Park for at least part of the period between the two world wars. It sold a range of products through agents around the country (east of the Rocky Mountains), targeted mainly at rural communities. The company products included gasoline table lamps and lanterns, poultry lanterns, camp stoves, "Sure-Hete" oil burners, irons, wood fibre and rayon mantles, lanterns globes and a range of over twenty different generators for use in almost any make of lantern. One of their flagship products was a Poultry Lantern, and some considerable part of the company brochures are given over to advice on such topics as how to increase egg yield, and how to prevent chickens' combs from freezing, and how to prevent bowel problems in the birds. Their advice makes reference to work on an experimental farm 20 years earlier, so it is reasonable to assume that Piepgras Light were in business in the first decade of the 20th century. The Tinley Park web site refers to a local inventor and entrepreneur who built a successful business with a chicken brooder of his own design. Could this be Mr Piepgras, or one of his friends - it certainly seems possible.

 

pg18 pgrural pg18g

Model 18, from a 1930s Piepgras Publication

In 1934 the lantern models included numbers 1, 2, 5, 18 and 18 "Giant". These were used with gasoline or kerosene, and were pressurised using an external pump. They could all be fitted with a built in pump for an extra 50 cents. Other models included numbers 50 and 52 match lighting wall lamps, and numbers 150 and 152 torch lighting wall lamps.

The table lamp was a 400cp light designated No 3, burning gas or kerosene.

pg1934 01

Extract from 1934 brochure

As in so many other cases, there is speculation as to whether or not Piepgras actually manufactured their own products at any time while they were trading. The predominant suggestion is that they did not, but sold lanterns made by other more established makers such as National Stampings (Nulite). However, there is evidence to suggest that some other lamp companies complained about use of their brand names by Piepgras in the catalogue showing replacement generators, forcing Piepgras to change the marketing so that they showed full size pictures of generators, and their own catalogue numbers only. It's not likely that the manufacturers who were supplying products would have done this, but there is no reference at all left in the listing.

It seems that Piepgras guaranteed some of their generators for 10 years - an amazing length of time, and that they received compliments from users in New York, South Dakota, Colorado, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Massachusetts, Georgia, Vermont, Connecticut, Missouri, and even Alaska.

 

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