Treasures: Slag Table Lamp is Missing Parts

Many people call this a Tiffany lamp, but that famous maker never made a lamp like this.

Dear Helaine and Joe,

Please help me know more about this slag table lamp. My mother purchased it in the early 1970s from an estate sale. I took a magnet to the metal and it stuck to the base bottom. The magnet did not stick anywhere else except on the new added parts. When Mom purchased, she had it altered to modern electrical fixtures. My research online said it was made by Miller circa 1915. Any information would be appreciated.

Sincerely,
I. S.

Dear I. S.:

Let’s assume for a minute that the lamp was indeed made by Edward Miller and Company of Meriden, Conn., but without a signature (“E. Miller” or “E. M. Co”) somewhere on the lamp, it will always be just an attribution. These signatures sometimes appeared on the electrical fixtures we assume were replaced by I. S’s mother.

We hasten to add that replacing worn and frayed electrical cords does not affect the value of an old lamp, nor does replacing any other dangerous electrical component. However, if the markings were on the sockets, that would have been a help and probably added to the value. But above all else, safety first; never use potentially faulty electrical equipment.

Edward Miller started in the lighting business in the 1840s, making and selling camphene and other fluids for burning in lamps. Camphene had a big problem — it was very explosive. In 1845, Miller took over the business of Horatio Howard, who manufactured all sorts of things including screws, candle holders, whale oil and other types of lamps.

Miller updated the works and introduced steam power, but it all burned to the ground in 1857. Oil was discovered in 1859 and with it came the introduction of kerosene for lamps and other purposes. Kerosene was a safer, more efficient fuel, and in 1866, Miller formed Edward Miller and Company, which manufactured kerosene lamps.

We will not go into the long history of E. Miller and Co., but other names associated with the company are “Juno,” Meteor,” “The Empress Lamp,” “The Mill Lamp” and “The Non-Explosive Lamp,” but just because a lamp has a marked Miller burner or collar does not make it a Miller lamp — these were used on other makers’ products.

Even though Miller died in 1909, his company continued to pioneer new products, including fluorescent lighting systems and a tungsten filament lamp that improved on Edison’s carbon filament. The lamp in today’s question was probably made sometime between about 1915 and 1925 (likely closer to the latter) and is made probably from brass with a bit of iron underneath and lovely blue/green slag glass.

Caramel slag is the most commonly found hue in this type of glass that is veined like marble and streaked with various colors such as purple, brown, blue or green (or a combination). In lamps it is found in press panels that have been bent to fit the frame of the shade. It is a shame that the lamp is probably missing its top cap and finial, and this limits its retail value to the $200 to $250 range.

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