Period Reproductions and Restorations

Solar Wall Sconce - circa 1845
Electrified, mustard yellow

Solar lamps were developed in the late 1830’s. The burner principle is the same as that of the Argand burner, however, it was developed to burn heavier grades of oil as well as to use lard as fuel. The term “solar” was used to compare the bright light emitted by the lamp to the bright light of the sun. This sconce has been copied from one pictured in the STARR, FELLOWS & CO.’S 1856 illustrated catalog.

Solar Wall Sconce
Starr, Fellows & Co.'s 1856 Catalog

The bulls-eye reflector is silver-plated. The sconces are available finished in black, opaque Prussian blue, mustard yellow, red, and Hunter green. Dimensions are: 5 ½"wide x 6"deep x 15" high including the chimney and 10 ½"high without the chimney. The photographs below the pricing information show some methods of mounting the sconces for electrification. Also note the photograph showing the nail detail.

The lamps are electrified and supplied with 35-watt, 110-volt halogen bulbs; 25 and 50-watt bulbs can also be used. The frosted glass sleeve that surrounds the bulb virtually eliminates bulb glare. There are four different electrified versions:

1. The first is wired so it can simply be plugged into a wall receptacle. A two-position on-off dimmer switch can be installed in the cord if requested.

2. The second is the same as the first but it has a variable on/off dimmer switch located in the font; rotating the drip cup operates the switch.

3. The third is wired to be mounted directly over an electrical box and operated by a wall mounted on-off/dimmer switch.

4. The fourth is wired and mounted just like the third but has a variable on-off/dimmer switch located in the font; rotating the drip cup operates the switch. This is designed for use in situations where it is impractical to wire the lamp to a wall-mounted switch.

Those familiar with period oil-burning solar lamps know that the wick is raised and lowered by rotating the chimney holder assembly, thus increasing or decreasing the level of illumination. This same method of adjustment has been incorporated in the third electrified version.

L-104-R-PAR Solar Wall Sconce – electrified, version 1


L-104A-R-PAR Solar Wall Sconce – electrified, version 2


L-104B-R-PAR Solar Wall Sconce – electrified, version 3


L-104C-R-PAR Solar Wall Sconce – electrified, version 4


L-104D-R-PAR Solar Wall Sconce – oil-burning


L-104D-R Wrought-head bolts & anchors, per pair


Solar Wall Sconce with CordMate

If there is no electrical box mounted in the wall directly behind where you want to place the sconce, using CordMate is a good means to hide the electrical cord that drops down the wall to a receptacle. CordMate is hollow plastic conduit that comes in 5' lengths and has an adhesive backing to hold it place, elbows and couplings are available if needed, and it can be painted or stained to match the background color.

I have used this product for many years; it is easy to use and I have been very pleased with it. CordMate is available at a number of hardware and home building supply stores; if you cannot find it, contact Wiremold at (enter CordMate in the search box at the top of the screen) or call (860) 233-6251.


Solar Wall Sconce mounting details

The sconce can be mounted to any 3" or 3 ½" electrical box using a standard center-threaded mounting strip (it can also be mounted to a standard wall switch box if codes allow). The wire coming from the font is fed through the black Haco insulator that is just below the brass nipple. Connections are made to the wires in the electrical box, the wires are "stuffed" into the box, and the lamp is then placed over the box and the nipple, shown protruding through the back of the sconce, is simply screwed into the center of the strip.

Antique-looking nails

Nails with wrought, hammered heads are supplied to be used to hang the sconce on the wall. Sconces mounted to electrical boxes are supported by the threaded brass nipple; the nails are provided only for appearance and to give the sconces an historically accurate looking installation. Wrought-head bolts and anchors are available for mounting sconces on sheetrock or plaster walls. Note that for oil-burning sconces there is no hole punched for the threaded brass nipple and decorative nut.

The photograph of the Starr, Fellows & Co. solar wall sconce is courtesy of Dr. Gerald Gowitt; it is reproduced with permission from his book 19th Century Elegant Lighting.

Prices are subject to change without notice. Web site errors, whether photographic or typographic, are subject to correction when ordering.


JP - Tinsmith
Joel Paradis
7249 West Main Street
Westmoreland, New York 13490
Telephone: (315) 853-1444
Facsimile: (315) 853-1221

© 2011 JP - Tinsmith
All text and photographs are the property of JP Tinsmith
and may not be reproduced without permission.