Pressure Lamps International

The Swaine Gasoline Lighting Co

217 Court Ave, Des Moines Ill USA (1910)


Truman Swaine was born in New York in the summer of 1858 to an English father and Irish mother who had emigrated to the USA. After working as a dry goods merchant in the 1890s, he took a position about 1903 as the Iowa State manager for Marion Pitner's Gasoline Lighting Company. Not long after, in 1905, he set up his own business, The Swaine Gasoline Lighting Co operating from Des Moines. During his time with Pitner he would have had built up a considerable knowledge of the hollow wire lighting trade and the way that agencies worked. He was soon joined by his son Ralph who was active in growing the business, which for a brief period became one of the largest in the city. As with very many businesses at that time, Swaine were present at the local fair demonstrating their products, in this case the Iowa State Fair.


This article from the Des Moines Register, 1910, describes the Swain Gasoline Lighting Co factory


  swaineDMR20081911p42b swaineDMR20081911p42


 From the Des Moines Register August 1911



Advert from Wallace's Farmer, March 1913


The first Swaine systems were manufactured in Chicago, in all probability by Pitners, with whom Truman Swaine had worked in previous years. According to the articles above, all the parts of the lighting system were eventually manufactured in the new Des Moines plant, and as well as hollow wire systems they had a portable stand lamp that used gasoline. The company continued to advertise for agents in the mid-west, with the number of adverts peaking at 34 in the period 1912-1913. After that there is little evidence of any advertising, so perhaps the business did not survive. Some time before 1920 Truman Swaine had become active in  real estate trading, suggesting that he was no longer involved with the lighting industry. He died in January 1922.

Examples of Swaine Gasoline Lamps are extremely rare, so additional information and photos are welcomed.




The Des Moines Register, June 1910 and Aug 1910

US Federal Census, 1900, 1910, 1920

Wallace's Farmer 14 March 1913 p31




Links to other sites

Links to other sites - this page is desperately in need of an update! It's coming soon, but in the meantime here are a few of the best internet sites for lamp collectors.   David Greenwood - a knowledgeable and friendly collector is at    Currently off-line Fil Graf has one of the original reference sites at Juan has a good site for Focus and Petromax at ...

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