Sockets Research Material
WHEELER GLASS & SHADES - Manufacturing Methods
There are basically
three things to watch for when authenticating the glass found in
smaller Wheeler shades, or other mirrored shades of these types.
The red backing
is not limited to Wheeler shades, as it was a manufacturing process
that has been being used since the 1850's (maybe earlier).
- Red lead
backing on the mirror
- A smooth
lead appearance around the inner and outer edges of the shade
- A heat ring
close to where the bulb would have set
Information And Early Glass Silvering Methods
The first info I could find was the mention of a patent by the inventor
DOMINIQUE DURAND of New York City in 1856. This is likely a hand written
document being harder to find (I already downloaded the entire year
of patents though), but it is mentioned in Durand's patent
No. 123,247 Jan. 30th 1872
This is a good
read as Durand is point to another patent (from another inventor)
and explaining how it is in error in the makers methods of using
shellac, in the place of varnish after the silvering.
copal varnish (as it stands up to the heat better) and discloses
his process of temperatures, mixings, etc. http://patentlink.antiquesockets.com/?123,247
you read the patent, you will see that he then goes on to describe
the red backing, that I see on all of my Wheeler glass samples.
Painted with "red lead ground in oil and thinned with spirits
of turpentine" as also explained in the other patent.
The Walker patent that he only reefers to as "December 13,
1869" (but the patent office was closed on that day). The patent
that he meant to refer to was patent
No. 97,838 December 14th 1869 linked below:
Patent by Henry
So, with the
above patent we have the entire process in detail, just should not
use the shellac.
was reissued by William Augustus Walker on July 18th 1871, after
the death of Henry Balen Walker.
W. Walker on May 19th 1879
Now using Varnish...
And before it dries to brush the back with bronze powder.
Walker had a
method of heating the glass during the silvering process.
His invention of a steam table that he used for this heating process:
of a stool that he used in silvering was his patent http://patentlink.antiquesockets.com/?110408
from another inventor using copper in 1861
As shown above,
there were different methods through time of sealing and protecting
the silvering on the back of the mirror glass. To this date all of
the Wheeler shades that I have come across have all used the red lead
Lead Backing On The Mirror
Most times you can see some evidence of this backing, even if the
mirror is in really good condition.
In these cases though you may need to look REALLY close between the
glass pieces (as shown in some pictures below). You can also download
a full resolution pdf of most of the images below which will also
allow you to zoom in for a closer look.
Gold "Smooth And Even" Lead
The next thing
to watch for is that the lead molding around the shade is smooth and
It is not hard to compare the difference between a shade that never
had it's glass replaced and one that has.
Even if great care was taken in replacing the glass, there will still
be clear evidence that it had been tampered with.
used soft lead that was smoothed and tooled using a rimming machine
that rolled the lead around the edges to make the "Fellet-Bead".
The fellet bead is a diamond shaped leaf which holds the glass in
The lead was then painted and finished in gold.
If the glass ever cracked or broke and was replaced, there would be
two things to watch for.
First the lead would be crumpled, dented and (or) no longer have the
straight smooth factory edges shown below.
Second, there would be some paint loss (speckling). This would had
been caused when the lead was bent open and the attempting to re smooth
it. As you can see from the pictures below, it would be a real task
to make the shade perfect again after replacing glass. This type of
shade with the soft lead painted rim would NEVER be perfect again
after having it's glass replaced(.)
Shown above is also the old patent for the diamond shaped bead (Pat.
No. 268,063). The new
patent no longer required the leaf to be soldered to the inner
rim of the shade as those manufactured before 1889.
All shades do not have heat rings, only the ones that received lots
It is common enough to look for though.
If there is distress on the glass close to where the bulb or heat
would have gathered, be sure that all of the glass matches. It is
common where only one or a few pieces of glass were replaced, that
the replaced glass would be missing or break the ring pattern.
Many times when glass is replaced, it is replaced with glass from
another old broken shade.
While it might even be of the same type of glass, it would show by
not matching completely when it comes to obvious patterns.
Shade Patents And Product Examples
earlier Wheeler shades styles (hard to come by) were mostly used
for kerosene and gas.
As shown in the text (N.B.) directly above, the early Wheeler
gas shades were sold for both gas and electric use.
Most times Wheeler shades will be marked with a brass sheet tag,
which can contain different selections of patent dates.
The patent dates will normally pertain to either the method of
holding the glass (the diamond shaped bead around the shade rim),
the holding method used, or the reflecting technique (example
the shape of the shade).
The shade shown above (Wheeler Style No. 414) uses three patent
dates on it.
Sept. 27th, 1881 (Pat.
No. 247,589) Reflection Method
Mar. 7th, 1882 (Pat.
No. 254,522) Holder/Shade Support
Nov. 28th 1882 (Pat.
No. 268,063) Glass Seating Methods (old Fellet-Bead)
Nov. 28th 1882 (Pat.
No. 268,064) Soft Lead Seating
inverted and flat shades (made mostly for electric use), will
normally be found with the patent dates of Nov. 28th 1882 (Pat.
No. 268,063) the old patent for the lead beading and Oct.
22nd 1889 (Pat.
No. 413,242) which was the new patent for the beading.
To be complete, there was a second patent on Nov. 28th 1882 (Pat.
No. 268,064), that has to do with the soft lead that held
the glass in place.
Here in this patent, Wheeler documents three other patents for
reflectors and how their glass attaches.
These patents are William Marot Marshall of Philadelphia, Pat.
No. 73,355 dated Jan. 14th 1868 for how glass mirror is mounted,
Frederick Hartmann of Chicago, Pat.
No. 155,085 dated Sept. 15th 1874 for a kaleidoscopic lantern
and Samuel B. H. Vance of New York, Pat.
No. 229,212 dated June 22nd, 1880 for a large reflector.
Remaining Notes - Cleaning glass
Shown above, Wheeler gave safe instructions for cleaning silvered
A dry cleaner is suggested called "whiting".
This is basically pumice sold for cleaning glass even today, but
pumice itself is better to use because it is more abrasive than
cerium oxide and whiting.
You can buy whiting here: http://angelgilding.com/A2505.html
You can but pumice
Another type of reflector to watch out for
Wheeler made what they called the Daylight Reflector.
This reflector was made of corrugated glass and were made of different
sizes to fit into a regular house, store, cellar, etc. window
frame. The reflector leaned out the window frame at different
angles to catch the sun and shine massive amounts of light into
a room. A great item to watch for at your local salvage shop.
This reflector is shown below: