Lighting

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.

Sigh.

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.

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to Sad Virden. Sweet Virdens.

  1. 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!

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