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?
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?
My online vintage lighting store.