My old 60s antique lamp, disassembled.
I have an old lamp that I've had for almost two decades now. It is an
antique lamp from the 60s, and has that kind of elegant yet whacked-out
design to it characteristic of 60s furniture. The lamp has usually
functioned as my bedroom lamp.
Well about a year ago I started having problems with the switch and
eventually substituted another lamp. And then yesterday, passing by the
little kitchen extension room to take out the trash, I noticed that my
mom had set it out to be put in the trash dumpster. Since I had my
hands full with garbage sacks already I left the lamp. And as I was
taking out the trash and then for a while afterward I got to thinking
that it was a shame the old lamp had to go. It certainly was a very
nice looking lamp, one they'd probably charge $50 for at an antique
I also got to thinking about how much of a disposable oriented society
we live in here in the U.S. It has certainly gotten better in recent
years. We now recycle trash and such items as cooking oil, and we are
more and more getting to the point where such things as computer
motherboards are being recycled for the metal. But we still have a long
way to go. The immigrant Russians I have known here, for example,
people who have known scarcity, they never waste anything. Old shirts
are used for rags and an old toaster can be taken apart and added to a
scrap metal collection. Here in the U.S., though, the Land of Plenty,
all but the most anal-retentive of us seem to be very wasteful.
So I decided to see if I could fix the old lamp. I knew it was a switch
problem. So I took the lamp apart slowly, slowly so I could remember
the way everything fit together, and finally was able to free the brass
housing for the switch and open it up and look at the switch directly.
The wires of the cord to the switch were still properly connected to
the screws. So that wasn't the problem. I examined the contact that
connected to the light bulb, and pulled it up a bit to make better
contact. I screwed in a light bulb and connected the power cord and,
being careful not to touch any of the parts, turned the lamp on via the
switch to see what happened. My final determination was that the switch
unit itself was totally screwed up and beyond repair. But I also thought
that it might be possible to buy a new switch unit and housing and replace
it. So I have put the lamp aside for now and will see if I can find a new
switch the next time I go to Wal-Mart.
The switch unit and housing looked nicely made. It was made of copper, a
rarity these days. On the housing was the legend LEVITON, MADE IN U.S.A.,
250 W. 250 V.
The switch housing, taken off the lamp.
I was done working on the lamp. But now I was curious as to the company
that made the switch that had lasted 40 years. Given the age of the lamp
and the fact that America has lost so much of its manufacturing base over
the decades I figured that the Leviton company was long gone. But thinking
that there might be some information about it on the internet regarding
its history I did a Google search.
As it turns out, not only is Leviton still in business, but it seems to be
thriving. Here's a bit of info from their web site.
Leviton was founded in 1906 to manufacture a single product: mantle
tips for gas lights. Since then, the Company has become a leading North
American producer of electrical and electronic products…What do the
White House, a winery in Napa Valley, an oil rig in Alberta Canada, and
90% of all the homes in America have in common? Electrical wiring
devices from Leviton.
Pretty impressive. Leviton is not only still in business but, on the
face of it at least, seems to be thriving. And they also have gone far
beyond the simple lamp switch. They have kept up with times and have
moved into new product lines such as automated home lighting and
speaker systems, surge protectors, and even routers.
Well, this is beginning to sound like some sort of television
commercial for Leviton. So to get back on track let me say that I was
impressed with the Leviton web site. And it also is sort of an an
electrical geeks heaven. I suppose due to the fact that electrical
contractors need schematic drawings for proper and safe installation,
and product specifications to meet various local building codes,
Leviton has a huge database for that type of thing. Just out of
curiosity, I downloaded the PDF version of the product schematics and
looked through it a bit. Not being an electrician I had little idea of
what I was looking at. But it certainly was very cool.
Leviton C-Clamp Mount Plug Bx Pigtails 6c.
I have no idea what it is, but it looks very cool.
As far as what I needed for the lamp, the closest I was able to find
was Part 7069. It looks to be made of cardboard surrounding the switch
instead of the nice brass of the old switch. But I suppose that is our
world today — and I have to admit that while the cardboard isn't very
stylish I guess it does save on metals. I should mention too that the
switch is probably designed for such things as enclosed overhead
lights, not decorative lamps.
A while back I did a post about FP International, a company that made
some of the packing material my new camera was shipped in. I happened
to say at that time that FP seemed like a good company that cared about
it's product and its customers. Leviton strikes me the same way. And
that, once again, is refreshing.
Perhaps it is because they are privately held companies. With the
recent disasters in the banking and financial industries and the
automotive industry here in the U.S. it occurred to me that in the main
those industries are operated by what you could only call mercenaries
— people who are hired in to manage the company and whose only
considerations are the profit margin and their own huge salaries.
There's very little incentive there to actually do things right, to put
out "a good product at a good price."
It's all about greed. It's no longer a matter of making things (even
if that making is such a thing as making a home loan). Instead it is
all too often in the abstract these days. Paleolithic hunters spent
time making their spear points. It might have been a job to them, but
they also were connected to the product of their hands, as well as to
its use. To the extent that we lose that connection — to the extent
to which we stop thinking about the quality of the product and the
people who will use it — I think our culture will suffer.
As for my old lamp, I'll keep you informed.