Light Fixtures of the 1920s

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The end of World War I in 1918 signified the beginning of the Industrial Age and an increase in the use of electrical power. Improvements in electrical transmission along with wider distribution methods, innovations in motor and control designs, and the introduction of the cheaper and longer-lasting tungsten lamp -- all helped bring lighting into American homes. Advertising campaigns urged American households to modernize with the slogan: "Electrify Your Home." As more homes were wired for electricity, electric light fixtures replaced the more dangerous gas and combination gas and electric fixtures to provide clean-burning, modern illumination.

Common Lighting Fixture Styles

Craftsman/Bungalow

Housed in oak woodcraft or hammered brass, iron or copper bases, Craftsman/bungalow fixtures featured straight lines with square or rectangular shapes on heavy chains. Stained glass lampshades on top of square oak frames and bases were used as table, accent and floor lamps. Porcelain glass bowls and shades were simple and squarish in design. Fixtures with frosted or amber glass and alabaster shades in boxy shapes were often hung in the center of a room as a chandelier, in kitchens as pendant lights, in bedrooms and living rooms as sconce accents, and as lantern-style porch lights.

Tudor Period

Tudor-style fixtures, which borrowed from medieval designs, featured elaborate casings of crystal and glass in cast iron, wrought iron and pewter. Electric candlesticks were a fashionable motif that diffused light to provide an Old-World ambiance. Cast-iron lantern-style fixtures made attractive porch lighting. Elegant chandeliers were fashioned from fine wrought iron or pewter that held a circle of electric candlesticks with mini lampshades.

Neoclassical

Classical motifs, symmetry and geometric patterns dominated Neoclassical designs with its ornate crystal chandeliers, clean elaborate lines, and frosted glass in rolling wave and foliage patterns. Lantern-style fixtures often had frosted granite glass, and Adam-style single-arm pewter sconces housed electric candlesticks. Elegant alabaster teardrop and ceramic bowls in creamy white shades hung from antique brass chains were used as flush-mount ceiling fixtures. Unlike the boxy Craftsman/bungalow fixtures, Neoclassic designs emphasized circular shapes and soft curves.

Colonial Revival

Also referred to as Neo-Georgian, Colonial Revival retained the traditional elegance of Federal-style and Classical Greek decor. Well-known design companies such as Steuben, Tiffany, Handel and Pairpoint began manufacturing accent, table and floor lamps with elaborate glass lampshades and antique bronze bases. Some examples of Colonial Revival fixtures are fluted glass library sconces wrapped in wrought iron, inverted frosted glass dome ceiling bowls with scalloped fluting, and double candlestick sconces encased in nickel. Bulbs were often left unshaded to emphasize their natural luminescence.

Art Deco

Inspired by the machine age and the resulting explosion in modern art, Art Deco fixtures combine traditional and modern features, borrowing exotic motifs and early 20th century avant-garde painting styles to create a bold statement that veered from traditional decor styles. Fanned deco glass with vivid symmetric lines and circular motifs were especially popular. Frosted glass slip shades and fluted colored glass encased in aluminum, nickel and bronze adorned walls and ceilings as sconces, pendants, chandeliers and ceiling fixtures. Porcelain bundt cake-shaped fixtures, custard glass bowls and milk glass globes were often found in suburban kitchens.

Spanish Revival

Reminiscent of European designs from the late 1800s, often seen in wealthy households, Spanish Revival focuses on Moorish-style designs using heavy wrought iron, stylized leaves, berries, exotic birds, dragonflies and other cultural motifs painted on cathedral frosted globe ceiling, glass cylinder shades and lantern-style scones and pendants. Pendant light fixtures were popular, such as bronze-encased ceiling pendants with amber crackle cylinder shades, as were rustic circular hand wrought-iron chandelier-style fixtures fitted with electric candles that hung by chains in the center of dining and living room areas.

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