Hartford - Faience Porcelain Head Incandescents

Porcelain body (or head) luminaires were common in the 1920's through the 1950's. Particularly when series circuits of a few kilovolts were used, the porcelain provided additional insulation from short circuits. Streetlight manufacturers went so far as to have separate openings, several inches apart, for the "positive" and "negative" feed wires. Electricity jumps through the air if the voltage is high enough, the wires are too close together, the air is humid, or the insulation on the wires has deteriorated. As better wire insulation was developed, streetlight manufacturers changed over to metal (usually cast aluminum) heads.

The "Kitchen Sink"*

Attached to its pipe bracket arm and lying on the ground this streetlight could easily be mistaken for a campsite washbasin. The porcelain enamel finish on the reflector is the same as that used on bathtubs and the insides of hot water tanks. Since streetlights of this type have been around in the 1940's and perhaps even before, this reflector could well have withstood the weather for over half a century without rusting out.

The porcelain head has small holes on opposite sides for stringing single conductor wires directly to the utility pole crossarm above. Loops are molded into the porcelain to provide strain relief for the wires.

The mounting collar screws onto a vertical pipe bracket. One of these units would have been my first streetlight when I pilfered one which I thought was junk from the side of the road many years ago. But the electric company apparently still wanted it and my father gave it back.

Weight of unit as shown: 14-3/4 lb.
Reflector 18-1/4" diameter overall.
Head maximum diameter (this specimen) 8-1/4"
Has medium screw base lamp socket (same as household).

The radial wave style fixture (bottom photo) has a larger porcelain head with the same features. There is also a channel molded inside the head so that the wires could be strung through the bracket arm (internal wiring). Except that the optional decorative nipple elbow on top of this specimen, used for mounting on a horizontal bracket arm, is not hollow to accommodate wires. Click here for more radial wave luminaires.

Both styles of reflectors have a large diameter screw thread that matches that of a cast aluminum collar that in turn is bolted to the bottom of the head. Other reflector styles, such as a quarter moon (upside down canoe) were also available.

Weight of unit as shown: 19-1/4 lb.
Reflector 20" diameter.
Head diameter at widest point (this specimen): 9-1/2"
Has medium screw base lamp socket (same as household).

* Nickname suggested by Joe Maurath.

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