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Vintage Barn Light Reflector Shades | 1880’s & 1890’s

Before explosion proof lighting arrived, vintage barn lights from Crouse-Hinds, Benjamin® and Appleton emerged from the earliest versions of Reflector Shades built by various lighting companies during the late 1880’s and early 1890’s. These shades were made of aluminum, tin or paper and were designed to enhance the style and function of the first incandescent lights they covered.

In 1887, tin Reflector Shades with a green exterior and white interior were listed in the E.P. Gleason Catalog. Their style was replicated in 1893, when Central Electric Supply Company in Chicago replicated Reflector Shades that were also made of tin. Approximate sizes for their shades were a mere 7 inches wide by 7.5 inches high. In 1898, I.P. Frink began selling Deep Cone Mirror Reflector Shades ranging from 18″ to 35″ for residential use, as well as theater lights as large as 170 x 120 inches! During that same year, E.P. Gleason unveiled Deep Cone Mirror reflectors that were adaptable to fit any socket and closely resembled the porcelain enamel lights that would arrive in 1899, when I.P Frink’s 18″ Deep Cone Porcelain Enamel Fixtures were featured in the Manhattan Electrical Supply Catalog.

Porcelain enamel shades didn’t become prevalent in the lighting industry until the “Reflector and Lamp Manufacturers’ Standard”. This standard judged reflector shades by their shapes and the quality of the materials used in the finish. According to the EMF Electrical Yearbook, 1921 edition:

“The mirror coating must be such as to successfully withstand the heat of the lamp, otherwise such reflecting material soon blackens or peels off of the glass surface. The kind of protective paint applied over the mirror surface on the back of the glass is therefore of great importance.”

In order to receive RLM certification, manufacturers were required to subject their product to periodic tests by the Electrical Testing Laboratories in New York City. To see vintage barn lights for sale, visit the Vintage Industrial Lighting section of Barn Light Electric Co.®.

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