Pair of crystal and brass single-arm argand lamps.
Attributed to Johnston Brookes & Co.
London, circa 1825-1830.
Labeled: B. Gardiner/ N. York.

The blown, cut and stepped crystal oil font with brass luster ring with pendant prisms on a brass shaft with a single arm supported by a scrolled bracket, continuing to the burner tube with a cut crystal bobèche and prisms, the shaft continuing to a blown and cut crystal base with a molded brass collar foot.

Measure: H 21″ W 13″ D 8″.

Condition: Very Good: One lamp with a crack in the back side of the glass base, skillfully repaired, lusters from the bobèche are mismatched, brass cleaned and re-lacquered, electrified.

This dramatic pair of lamps is attributed to Johnston Brookes & Co., on the basis of the crystal elements, in which they seem to have specialized, possibly in collaboration with William Collins, celebrated Strand glass-man and court glass-manufacturer to George IV. Johnston Brookes was located at 32 New Street Square, Fetter Lane, London in the 1820’s and were the successors to George Penton who had been instrumental in the development of the Argand lamp in England in the 1780s and 1790s.

Baldwin Gardiner (1791-1868), was a silversmith who operated a luxury emporium, first listed as a “merchant” in 1827, at 149 Broadway and then at 29 Maiden Lane, New York City until 1848, where they offered fancy hardware, lighting, porcelains and silver. Many luxury items such as Paris porcelain and Argand lamps were imported from the finest manufactures in England and France, the lamps “private labeled” at the factory. Baldwin was the brother of Philadelphia silversmith Sydney Gardiner of the renowned Philadelphia firm Fletcher & Gardiner, and brother-in-law of Louis Veron who ran a similar luxury emporium in Philadelphia.

Geneva-born philosopher and inventor Francois-Pierre-Ami Argand (1750-1803), finally received a British patent for his lamps developed a few years earlier in Paris on March 15th, 1784 (patent no. 1425). His invention which promised “a lamp that is so constructed to produce neither smoak [sic.] nor smell, and to give considerably more light than any lamp hitherto known” consisted of a tubular wick held between metal tubes, a rack and pinion wick riser assembly and a tall, narrow chimney that fit closely around the wick causing air to be drawn up through the center of the flame as well as around its outside creating more thorough combustion. It was designed to burn rape-seed (colza) and whale oil, issuing from an oil reserve or “font” positioned so that the oil would flow from the force of gravity to the burner.

This invention, developed initially with Matthew Bolton and James Watt in England, was subsequently manufactured by a host of makers in Birmingham including Messenger, Johnston-Brookes, Phipson & Lambley, Fletcher & Day, T.C. Salt and J. & C. Ratcliff. Hailed by Rees in his encyclopedia of 1819 The Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature saying “it may be justly ranked among the greatest discoveries of the age” and by Benjamin Franklin who noted it was “much admired for its splendor,” Argand’s invention was the most important advancement in home lighting since the discovery of fire.