Industrial antiques, fridge magnets, history...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Helping give birth to Industrial Antiques

Next month will mark nine years since we coined the name Industrial Chic and started specializing in industrial antiques.  A lot has changed since then.

From zero to 9 million in 9 years
Nine years ago industrial was not a category in antiques and collectibles.  A Google search for industrial antiques turned up a few websites with tractor seats.  Searching for an "industrial antique lamp" brought up nothing at all.  Hard to believe given that today a Google search for that lamp turns up over 10,000 hits, "industrial antiques" turns up 85,000 and "industrial chic" turns up nearly 9 million.

 It wasn't that industrial antiques were suddenly discovered under a rose bush.  In 2005 interior designers had begun working old objects from factories and schoolhouses into decors featured in upscale magazines, and some antique shops in metropolitan cities were spicing their inventories with a few industrial items.  But for a majority of the collecting world, industrial was an orphan.

Industrial wha?
We started selling antiques and collectibles online in 1997 and began specializing in industrial in March of 2006, but merchandising was difficult, largely because the category didn't have a name.  In vintage furniture and accessories there was Victorian, Mid Century, Retro, Shabby Chic and Mission, but industrial was nameless.  To fill out our inventory we carried around a notebook of photographs to show peddlers what kinds of items we were looking for.  We couldn't just tell them "industrial antiques" because their response was, "Huh?"  The term was meaningless.  Before we could trade in industrial we had to first define it, then help educate the marketplace. 

We coined the name "Industrial Chic" and started selling wholesale.  In December, 2006 we opened our Industrial Chic store on Ebay but didn't create our website until January of 2007, by which time the domain name had been captured by someone else, so we became  One of our first tasks was creating this guide on Ebay:  Industrial Antiques: What are they?   It has been revised over the years but the title has remained unchanged because we get a smile to see it and remember the early days.

Today industrial chic has become so popular that its design influence is seen in new products for just about every area in the home.  A few of the items sold that first year are pictured below.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wagenhorst Photogenic Twin Arc Lamp Rheostat 1920s Dimmer

Dim and Dimmer

Out of Ohio history comes an item designed for industrial applications, that sixty years later would become common in homes.

The Photogenic Company in Youngstown (today headquartered in Bartlett, Illinois) makes lighting for the photography and printing industries.  In the early 1900s one of its biggest sellers was an arc lamp called the Wagenhorst High Power Twin Arc Lamp. The Wagenhorst was equipped with a rheostat control to set light intensities from 10 to 50,000 candle power, and from a soft North light to a small brilliant sunshine effect.

The Photogenic company was founded in 1903 by James H. Wagenhorst.  In 1922 it incorporated as the Photogenic Machine Company with John P. Young as president and treasurer, E. G. Perkins as general manager and G. W. Perkins as secretary.  

The original Wagenhorst company patented a variety of products and components for automobile tires, guns, printing, photography and refrigeration compression equipment. 

See an advertisement for the Wagenhorst lamp and the patent for the rheostat.