Monday, October 14, 2013

Virden Lighting Chandelier | Mid-Century Monday

When we moved into our home last December, most of it had been recently remodeled. This was great for a lot of reasons. But it also meant that a lot of the original charm that was probably once present in our 1950s split level had been replaced with new fixtures designed to appeal to the everyday buyer.

This was the chandelier that came in our new home:


Don't get me wrong, it was nice and all. But it just wasn't old enough.

This, on the other hand, is perfect:



I spotted this magnificent piece of history a while back on Craigslist. It was $500. I didn't have an extra $500 sitting around but I fully support wishful thinking so I dove head first into a serious round of I'll-just-research-this-til-I-convince-myself-it's-worth-the-$500-I-don't-have.

The Craiglist ad showed a picture of the lamp's manufacturer sticker so I used that to Google-vestigate.



I pulled the following directly from the Abandoned Blog:

By 1968, Virden was the third largest among the nation’s 1,400 fixture manufacturers, 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.
In 1946, Virden was elected a director of Eaton Manufacturing Company and became director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in January 1951 – later rising to chairman of the board. On September 28, 1958, Virden was named president of Eaton Manufacturing Company and diversified the company, believing in “divisional autonomy.” He also announced his resignation as chairman of the board of the Virden Company. In 1965, the Virden Company was acquired by Scott & Fetzer Company of suburban Lakewood, with no changes taking place at its operations at Longfellow Avenue. The company became known as the Virden Lighting division.
In 1970, Scott & Fetzer laid off several hundred from the Virden Lighting division due to a housing slump, and again in 1975. The company sold off its Virden Lighting and Rembrandt Lamp divisions in December 1977 to a newly formed company, Virden Corporation, which at the time of the sale had 360 employees.
That's cool if you're into history--but what was of use to me was that Virden was acquired by the Scott & Fetzer Company in 1965. The label of my prized light fixture showed it was from the Virden Lighting Division of Scott & Fetzer. Scott & Fetzer sold their divisions in 1977. Which meeeeeans my fixture was made between 1965 and 1977.

I also learned that the Virden lighting catalog came out every two years. I was able to dig up the 1959 catalog, which means the catalog came out in odd-numbered years. If I had to guess I'd say my fixture was from 1967. Here's a similar light fixture (bottom right) from the 1959 Virden catalog from the Internet Archive:


I scoured Ebay and Etsy and everywhere in between to find a comparable light fixture to compare prices but I couldn't find anything like it anywhere. This was weeks ago so I tried again now. The closest I could find was this:

The bad news: It really was worth $500. Probably more than that actually. And, even so, I couldn't afford it. So I let it go.

Kind of. I checked back sort of embarrassingly frequently. A month later it was still available. AND it was around half the price.

The good news: I am expert haggler and got the price down to $200...which was still more than I could afford in real life. And yet...



I plan to keep this gem for a very long time or to sell it for much more than I paid for it in the event that Jackson Lloyd needs an emergency liver transplant. The old-new chandelier that came with the house is still in the attic so we can put it back up to appease the herd of prospective buyers when we eventually move out of here. 


PS, I know Columbus Day is kind of a ridiculous holiday for anyone who actually pays attention to history, but Columbus just so happens to be the name of our cat. So--Happy Columbus Day from Columbus the Cat!



3 comments:

  1. Very helpful in identifying my Virden light that also has the tag with "Div of the Scott & Fetzer Co." Thanks!

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  2. I just scored the older 1959 version of this fixture with the original globes (all but one) from my in laws. Thank you for all the incredible research. I can't wait to hang it in my 1950s home!

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