This design for the articulated arm of this O.C. White Co. began as an improvement for dental headrests.
The lamp pictured with its multi-articulated arms almost looks like something out of a modern “steampunk” design studio, but it in fact dates back to the early years of the 20th century.
This lamp bears the mark of O.C. White Co. Dr. Otis C. White founded the company and patented these multi-jointed articulated arms in 1883.
Otis was not really an inventor; he started out as a dental surgeon in Hopkinton, Mass. The joints used on his lamps were an offshoot of a design he patented for dental-chair headrests via a universal ball-and-socket joint. That same design is still used today on lamps of this type.
His company began production of gas lamps in 1894, branching off into adjustable electric lights about 1909. These adjustable lights were used anywhere that such task-lighting was needed, such as over charts on ships and drafting tables and in repair shops of all kinds. These lamps were also used extensively in both the First and Second World War by land and naval forces.
The O.C. White Co. still produces its works today in Thorndike, Mass.
The company is still in operation in Thorndike, Mass.
This one would appear to date from the first quarter of the 20th century.
Industrial lamps like this are now a very hot item, and the O.C. White Co. examples are now considered industrial-design icons, with even the most basic of their articulated lamps rarely retailing for less than $695. The more complex multi-jointed versions approach $2,000.
Examples like the circa-1915 vintage one above often retail in the $650-to-$850 range in restored condition.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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