Pressure Lamps International

The Thomas Manufacturing Co., Dayton, Ohio.

©AWMoore 2003

The Thomas Manufacturing Company was a truly remarkable and versatile company, although it failed to survive the depression years after the first world war.

With roots back in 1886 or perhaps even earlier, The Thomas Manufacturing Company was producing bicycles in its Springfield, Ohio base between 1896 and 1898. One registered address was 360 South Limestone Street, Springfield. By 1901, it had patents for rope making equipment, and the Thomas Rope Machine was part of it's production range for the next few years. There are indications that the company continued to specialise in the rope industry perhaps beyond 1910, by which time it was based in Dayton, Ohio. By that time other irons were in the fire, and the growing gramophone industry was a lucrative outlet for products such as needles and clockwork motors. In 1916 Thomas Manufacturing marketed at least one gramophone, or phonograph, called the Armoniola. There are also documented cases of music records being distributed, possibly manufactured by the company. One such is the Domino, a 7 inch label advertised in 1916 but not, apparently, later than then.

In the early years of the 20th century, the company was associated with general domestic products, and around 1913/14 they began to develop an unusual lighting device that burned kerosene, when almost all the other American lighting manufacturers were designing lanterns that burned gasoline. The Thomas Kerosafe table lamp, M1001 and the Kerosafe lantern M1004 used a burner and generator common to both styles, and it appears that production continued until around the middle 1920s. There is a suggestion that the company ceased trading in 1926. Thomas must have been a significant employer in the area, and a scan through local obituaries shows that it was not uncommon for men to work there for many years. One such man was William Perrin, who was an employee there between 1886 and 1920. I wonder what prompted him to leave after 34 years service, only to move to another local firm where he remained for a further 17 years.

The Kerosafe M1004 lantern has an attractive shape, it stands about 14 inches tall, and has an unusual arrangement where the air inlet tubes protrude through reinforced holes in the mica globe, where they are capped with a flat circular plate retained by a grip inside the tube. This component always seems to get lost - so if you are buying a M1004, check both plates are present, and be aware that you won't be able to use a glass globe. The design was relatively advanced, and had a tip cleaning needle operated by means of a wire hook that passed up through the base plate to a cam operated by a wire lever. The lantern was preheated by using alcohol on an asbestos torch attached to a wire handle that was lifted through a large opening in the base plate. Once lit, the cover could be swung across to close the opening. The table lamp has the same burner style, but uses a rather small shade compared with contemporary models from other makers.

kerosafe01 kerosafe02

Thomas Manufacturing lantern M1004 and table lamp M1001.

Many Thomas lamps and lanterns are not marked in any way, but identification is relatively easy because of the distinctive shape and style. Those that are marked often have the words "The Thomas Mfg Co Dayton Ohio" embossed into the valve wheel. Looking at the style of the wheel, I think these are later versions.

References: ( web links may be out of date - sorry)

Daily News, Springfield. (1945) Tuesday, March 20, 1945 Obituaries. Springfield. USA

Hill R. (ed.) (2003) The Wheelmen - list of bicycle brands

Hobson A. (1997) Lanterns that lit our world Book Two. Golden Hill Press, New York.

Johnson D. (2003) The Rope Makers Bible.

Marshall L. (1913) Publications Pertaining to the Flood of 1913: The True Story of Our National Calamity by Flood, Fire and Tornado : How the Whole Nation Joined in the Work of Relief. Dayton, Ohio. Thomas Manufacturing Co. Dayton.

Sutton A. (1996) America's Miniature Record Fad. Mainspring Press Publications.

United States Department of the Interior (2002) National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places - Washington

Wakeman R.J. (2003) World of Gramophones.


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