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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

M. G. Wheeler Sightlight

I ran across this lamp a month or so ago and was fascinated by it, but I didn't have a clue what it was.


M. G. Wheeler Sightlight floor model
craigslist.org


Then a few days ago I was cruising eBay to see if I could run across anything interesting, and I found a table lamp that was an exact match. I was excited to see that it still had tags and that the seller had been able to identify it...as a W. G. Wheelmer, according to the listing. I immediately googled the name to learn more, and ...nothing.


M. G. Wheeler Sightlight table model
ebay.com


After trying several different combinations of search terms, it occurred to me that the seller might have made a typo, so I plugged in "Wheeler," and up popped the information I wanted. It turns out the seller had totally botched the name. It wasn't W. G. either. It was M. G.

The style is called the Sightlight, and it was manufactured by M. G. Wheeler Co., Inc. of Greenwich, Connecticut. I haven't found out yet when the company started, but I did find a record that indicates a Melville G. Wheeler filed for incorporation on July 27, 1950. I found conflicting information about a date for the lamps, with one source stating that it was a 1930s design, while another claimed it was a product of the 1940s, and several others said 1950s.

I think it has that wonderful flying saucer look of a Marion Geller or Gerald Thurston or Gino Sarfatti lamp, and I love it, no matter when was designed. Just for the record, I plan to keep looking for information about the Sightlight till I come up with something definitive.

Most of the Sightlights I found on eBay were pretty banged up, but I found several restored lamps that had been painted nicely:


Fully restored Sightlight in black and brass
etsy.com - RamirezDesignWorks

Sightlight in coral
ebay.com

Blue Sightlight with round base
picclick.com

31 comments:

  1. Ooooo...I love that lamp! Good job figuring out what it was!

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  2. Very cool lamp! I love the last lamp pictured, but I've got a thing for blue.

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  3. Interesting, thanks for this. I'm a fan of flying saucer lamps.

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  4. @Jake & Beth: Welcome to the blog! I always love to see comments from new people. I hope you'll come back often. As for figuring out the lamp...that's half the fun of writing this blog and collecting MCM. :)

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  5. @Rhan: I think I'm leaning towards the black table lamp...and the seller is local. Yay!

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  6. @I dream lo-tech: I'm drawn to flying saucer lamps too. I can picture the black one on that Luther Conover desk. Ummmm...

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  7. Hello! Great blog and excited to be a follower. This lamp is a ghost I have been chasing awhile now and it is very hard to get info, at least so far. Now please keep in mind, this is only theory based on what I have found so far. I believe that the Sight Light Corp of Deep River CT made certain electrical component parts, as that name has been ref in some techie reports. Also, there appears to be a connection with engineers from the Naval Shipyard in Mystic CT. I can see a possible pre or post war connection or tie in with the design. The "Wheeler" lamp made me think perhaps the original designer's name. The pivot lamp is extremely popular and clouted as having many design awards, (so this is the next path I am taking). Granted, these lamps deserve recognition.

    Note that the Wheeler lamp has the single center globe cap screw and the pink floor lamp shows 3. In various auction material found, you can find both examples. I just purchased my first one on Etsy and can not wait for it to arrive. I believe this to be a little earlier because it is so Deco-styled. But I can show the base plate & labels. I'll convo you at Etsy with the pics.

    Love your house!! I have a question about one of your chairs.

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  8. @My Mother's House: Great to have you as a follower...welcome! I'm impressed with all the research you've done on the Wheeler lamp and will be interested to know what else you find out.

    What chair do you have a question about?

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  9. Hi Dana,

    I have a question about your turquoise saucer chair - trying to see what the feet look like. I found one in my Habitat store recently and trying to find a comparable chair to compare it to - what do you know about yours?

    Valerie (MyMothersHouse)

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  10. @Valerie: I really don't know anything about the chair. It isn't marked, and I haven't found another one exactly like it. It has a 4-point star pedestal base. The tips of the feet have brass caps. I know that's probably not much help, but it's all I know.

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  11. I have several of these fixtures, collected over time. Seems to me there is a connection with these lamps and the Submarine Base in Connecticut.

    I'm a fan of WW2 submarine movies. If you watch some of the submarine action movies from the period, you can find these lights scattered around the boats. Look closely at some of the lights in officers staterooms or scenes with the chart boards and you might spot one. (Suggestions: Run Silent, Run Deep. Destination: Tokyo. Torpedo Run. Just to name a few.)

    So, my guess is these lamps were installed under contract on various boats being built in Groton, where the Electric Boat Corporation has built subs for the Navy for many years.

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  12. @PAUL: Thanks for that interesting information. A reader in a previous comment mentioned a connection to the Naval Shipyard, but it's fascinating to know that there's a connection to subs and that we can find instances of the Wheeler lights being used in film. I agree that it has to be more than coincidence that they appear in that many movies. I'll check out those films.

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  13. I was watching a few minutes of "Mr. Roberts" tonight. In Mr. Robert's stateroom, above the desk, there is a swingarm mounted "Sightlight". (Check the scene when "Doc" ( William Powell) is mixing some fake scotch for Ensign Pulver (Jack Lemmon). The ship the movie was filmed on is the Hewell, which was built in Los Angeles in the '40s. So, the Navy might have fitted these lights as part of the normal supply chain, not just for ships built in Groton.

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  14. @PAUL: It's amazing how much information about the Sightlights you're accumulating. Thanks for sharing it on my blog. I find it very interesting.

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  15. I have also been searching for information on this lamp so thanks for this info!

    A friend has the desk lamp in green and he claims it was designed by an architect and was Gene Rodenberry's inspiration for the form of the enterprise. He also said it is in an episode of one of the newer series.
    I cannot find any reference to this but there sure is a strong resemblance!

    Meanwhile, I am a lamp nut and just purchased one in black from etsy and am anxiously waiting for it to arrive...

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    1. I just found more information on this lamp, and I'm writing a follow-up post that I think you'll find interesting.

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  16. Had a MG Wheeler desk lamp just like these (I checked the label to make sure) in my sites tonight at auction, I ran the bid up to 80 then bailed, buddy that was going against me new what it was also and was showing no sign of slowing down. It was the best lamp there and there were other nice mid century lamps.

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    1. When we first saw the lamp in the top picture on Craigslist about a 2-hour drive from here, the seller wanted over $100. It didn't sell for the longest time, and the price came down to $85 or $90, but every time we were in that town, we couldn't seem to make connections with the seller, so we never got it, unfortunately. I hope you find a good deal on another one.

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  17. How to change the light bulb in the M. G. Wheeler Sight Light floor lamp??? Cannot figure it out!!!

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  18. Tracey
    under the saucer lid there should be 3 arms you can squeeze on toward the center.the top should lift off and you can change the bulb. Good luck. Sarah Arrasmith( owner of a Sight Light floor model for 24 years.)

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    1. Mine is a bit different, but easier to figure out: It has 3 decorative brass knobs on top of the saucer which are actually thumbscrews. Remove and the saucer comes off for access to the bulb.

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  19. I have one of these desk lamps, inherited from the estate of a great- uncle in Chicago who passed 20 years back. It had a brownish bronze painted finish before I repainted it burgundy 10 years back. The Navy shipyard connection is interesting for me to learn of since I work for one. Also, I've spotted the lamp in a couple other movies: Finding Forrester (title character's apartment) and Men In Black (pawnshop scene).

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  20. I bought a $40 lamp on Craigslist yesterday, and couldn't figure out how to change the bulb (to LED). Sarah's post solved the mystery! I'm so excited the lamp's history is as interesting as it looks! I am guessing that the 3-thumbscrew-shade version is older. I see one on Ebay and it says it's built in "Deep River, Conn." Mine says Greenwich Conn. It looks a lot older than mine. The plastic (Bakelite?) on/off switch looks a lot earlier than the 50s, too.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/121390634420?lpid=82

    My lamp:

    [oops, link isn't accepted]

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  21. I just bought the table lamp version and the floor model and an estate auction last week. They are in decent condition and I'd really like to repaint them but I dont know of a way to replicate the "leather grain" finish thats on them. In your opinion do you think it would seriously devalue these lamps to repaint them back to a smooth finish? Also the bronze plating was in poor condition so I buffed it off to reveal the brass underneath and it looks very good. Thanks, Jerry T

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    1. I know that Ralph Lauren makes a leather-textured wall paint, but I don't know offhand of any brand that makes a leather textured spray paint, although it wouldn't surprise me to find one. All the Wheeler lamps I've seen restored had a smooth finish, so I doubt you would be doing them any harm.

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  22. I was able to just mist some correct shade of paint over the existing finish/texture and they turned out great. Both lamps should be finished tomorrow or Thursday. Excited to get them done and in the house to use. The floor model is a silvery nickle color while the table model is a light tan, not the most inspiring color but I didn't want to remove that factory texture.

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  23. I received the following email that might prove interesting to those of you wanting to know more about the company:

    My Mom worked at the Sight Light Corporation in Deep River, CT, circa 1950-1951. Years ago she told us that where she worked at Sight Light Corporation, they made lights/lamps for submarines. Those included desk models with a rectanglular base, the articulated swing arm and a rectangular light with a small diameter fluorescent type bulb about a foot long. They also made a lamp with the same swing arm and light at the end, but rather than a rectangular base they had a square mounting bracket for wall mounting. Both styles were produced in Navy Gray. I read your blog and I noticed one person knew about the Deep River connection. Though I live elsewhere now, I grew up there (1949 - 1960's.). Sight Light Corp was owned by Leroy C. Doane who later operated the L.C. Doane Co in Essex, CT, the next town south of Deep River on the Connecticut River.

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  24. I just bought one on ebay, base is round with fluted stem, has same shade diffuser and saucer top with 3 thumb screws.
    The owner claims-1936 Sight Light silver desk lamp, this lamp came from my uncle who was a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy from 1938-1957. He had it aboard his ships during WWII.

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  25. I bought one of these sight light floor model lamps,mine is a bronze color...it's in mint condition but mine has 3 stars at the base of the lamp I tried looking for an image of a sight light lamp that has the stars on it like mine's but couldn't find one...I found similar ones but not anything as detailed as mine....Can anyone help me with this please.

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