Sad Virden. Sweet Virdens.

From the 1920s through to the 1970s, one of the most successful lighting manufacturers was the the John C. Virden Company. Virden was Canadian-based, at 19 Curity Ave in Toronto, but had a large factory in Ohio.

From Abandoned: Virden was the third largest among the nation’s 1,400 fixture manufacturers by 1968, with production tripling from eight years prior. The company sold more than 1,000 varieties from its biennial catalog, and produced 10,000 to 15,000 fixtures per day, consuming more than a million components per week. Virden constructed 600 to 800 units of one design per run, which were moved to distributors in lots of 10 to 2,000 per week, some designs totaling 150,000 units per year. Its designers sketched 2,500 fixtures per year, selecting 100 patterns to be prototyped.

I purchase more lighting by Virden than any other company, and normally have a dozen or more Virden fixtures listed for sale. What is remarkable about Virden fixtures, like all lighting from before, say, 1975, is that they are made of quality materials and were meant to last. I can take a sorry-looking Virden, rewire the original sockets, clean or refresh the finish, and it will be ready for many many more decades of use. Can the same be said of most lighting produced today?


Virden’s Ohio office was at 6103 Longfellow Avenue in Cleveland, which was surrounded by numerous manufacturing buildings. The massive brick factory is long abandoned, and its countless widows broken. But it wasn’t that long ago that this factory – like countless such factories across America – was teeming with life and supporting millions of families. This, back when America actually made stuff. Behind the factory is a rail spur, so goods could be easily loaded and transported across the country.


If you turn around, a lot of vacant land is revealed. But this land would have been occupied by modest homes where the factory workers lived. A short commute! But for most of human history the distance between work and home was short. Today, people think little about driving an hour or more to work. Two or more hours a day. This is crazy.


So, once upon a time, America made stuff. High-quality stuff. Which was then efficiently shipped by rail. Workers could walk to work.

Yes, there was a lot wrong during this era, like poor working conditions and segregation. But there was a lot right. And we threw all this away.


However, the Virden legacy lives on. Wanna see some sweet Virden’s?


In 1930 Virden introduced their WINTHROP line and I sell more Winthrop fixtures than anything else. Here is the 2-bulb surface-mounted version. There were hanging versions, too, and 3-bulbs and 5-bulbs and sconces.


The fixtures are aluminum and have a polychrome finish in gold and with red and green accents. The finish is often in excellent condition today and, if not, I have learned to expertly recreate it.


So pretty. The fixtures are ideal for a hall, foyer, or small bedroom.




My online vintage lighting store.






  1. Jarrett L. on November 16, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Hey Ross, do you know anything about table lamps? I have an old lamp with the words “CORNELL M.” Engraved on the top. If you can help me put a date this lamp it would be lovely. Thanks!

  2. Mary Ann on November 16, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    sigh….when America actually made stuff!!

  3. Sandra Lee on November 27, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Virdens — are my absolute favorites!!!

  4. Derek Ford on November 22, 2018 at 10:56 am

    I actually worked at this factory during the summer of 1978, before I went off to college.
    That factory wouldn’t be possible today, too many osha violations, it’s a miracle that place never burned to the ground.
    But they did make hundreds of light fixtures. Most of the work force was black with a few whites and they were mostly old timers who had been there for awhile.
    Those were the days when new workers did more than one job, you could be in shipping or on the assembly line or driving a forklift all in the same day.

  5. Kacey Virden Anderson on July 3, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Thank you for writing this! I am not sure how my mother came across your article, so thank you. My Great Grandfather, John C. Virden, had an amazing vision, employing, creating and designing it all. We are very proud to be Virden descendants.

    Kacey Virden Anderson

    • Carey Potter on July 20, 2019 at 5:43 am

      I’m a huge fan of your grandfather’s work! Thanks to your family!

  6. Nicole Sounik on January 24, 2020 at 7:19 pm

    Hey Ross! Loved this article on Virden. I have 6 white orb pendants by Virden and wonder if Lightolier ever had any connection.

  7. I Brown on March 6, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    My dad was a salesman for virden Toronto from 1966 to 1979.

  8. Mark Klingensmith on April 26, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    My first job out of college…after Al Cherry bought the company…along with Rembrandt Lamps…was in a sales training program…worked in all the departments…factory…shipping…production…loved the people…took over Indiana…was there til the end…

  9. Larry Bernet on September 26, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    I was hired by Mr. Cherry in 1971. I was a sales trainee and then assigned sales territory of Nebraska, Iowa, and Eastern South Dakota. I was then promoted to Dallas, Texas. I left Virden in July, 1978. The demise of Virden took place when Scott & Fetzer divested the company in 1977. The products were very well made and had some nice styles.

    • Ian Brown on September 28, 2020 at 11:40 am

      My dad was regional sales manager with Virden 1976 77(OntarioCanada). In March of 77 was to be transferred to western Canada and appointed National Sales manager. Just as new home in British Columbia was to be closed, the Scott and Fetzer deal was announced and the job appointment fell through.

  10. James D Lebo on October 9, 2020 at 4:21 pm

    I love the mid century modern stuff. How and where do I obtain quality MCM atomic stuff? Lighting, dinnerware, glassware, furniture, and decor. I hope to own, and furnish, my own modern home someday.

  11. Karen Murduck on August 21, 2021 at 2:43 pm

    My father was General Sales Manager for John C Virden Lighting in Canada between 1958 and 1970 ish.

  12. Alan Emsley on August 26, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    Hello. My search for Virden brought me to your interesting writing of the history of this company. Thanks so much. I’ve owned a Virden for many decades but now face the challenge of trying to have it converted to a grounded 3-wire plug since the electric code in my new home wont permit my installing it without this. Can you direct me to a source of help with this, either to a way for me to convert it (replace parts) or have someone do so safely.

    Thanks for any help you may be able to provide.

  13. Thomas Russell on October 15, 2021 at 9:42 am

    Larry I remember well when you called on us at korsmeyer electric supply…I was the quotations manager then….we often had lunch together and I once took you to sertoma with me.

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