The History of a Stiffel Lamp

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The Stiffel Lamp Company manufactured quality lamps for over 68 years, overcoming an adverse Supreme Court ruling and economic uncertainty. Ted Stiffel and his designers produced lamps with both innovative and classical designs.

Foil Signature

Ted Stiffel, an artist and designer, opened the Stiffel Lamp Company in Chicago, Illinois, in 1932. For decades the Stiffel Lamp Company crafted lamps that included a unique foil signature from pewter, brass and bronze.

Quality Craftsmanship

Stiffel lamps featured exquisite finishing, intricate detailing and careful weighting. Department and specialty stores in both the United States and Canada carried Stiffel lamps.

Stiffel Pole Lamp

Stiffel created the Stiffel pole lamp that featured a vertical tube with rotating lamp fixtures outside of the tube. The Stiffel pole lamp was one of the most popular lamps in the 1940s and 1950s, and it is the precursor of modern track lighting.

Stiffel Sues Sears

In 1957, the U.S. Patent Office granted the Stiffel Lamp Company a mechanical and design patent on the pole lamp. Shortly afterward, the Sears, Roebuck & Company department store marketed copies of the Stiffel pole lamp. Stiffel sued Sears for patent infringement and unfair competition under Illinois law, charging that Sears caused confusion about the creator of the lamp.

Public Domain Design

The pole lamp case reached the United States Supreme Court, and in 1964 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Stiffel patent and the lamp design was in the public domain. Sears could legally copy it.

Pole Lamp Reintroduced

Stiffel survived the Supreme Court ruling and stayed in business until 2000, when it closed its factory because of insufficient financing. The Salton Lamp Company acquired the Stiffel Lamp Company and its assets and has recently reintroduced the Stiffel Pole Lamp.

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