Original U.S WWI Medical Corps Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern
Original Item: Very Few Available. The Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern was patented and manufactured by Charles H. Stonebridge in 1906 and quickly became one of the most popular camping equipment items of the day. In World War I it served as the U. S. Army issued Medical Corp lantern and field lantern in addition to being selected for use by the Canadian armed forces and the armies of several European nations.
These genuine examples are offered in very good condition and are constructed of galvanized steel. All come complete with original translucent mica panels, correct markings and folds. Some may require adjustment of the brass retaining clip to fold up correctly. Overall fantastic original pieces of Great War technology that was crucial for the United States Doughboys in the trenches during World War One.
A number of camping how-to books and dozens of magazine articles recommended the Stonebridge lantern, which can be seen in old book illustrations and photographs of early campers. Some of the authors that specifically mentioned or recommended the Stonebridge lantern include –
- Edward Breck – The Way of the Woods; A Manual for Sportsmen in Northeastern United States and Canada (1908), G. P. Putman’s Sons, New York, NY
- Francis Buzzacott – Buzzacott’s Masterpiece, or the Complete Hunter’s, Trapper’s, & Camper’s Library of Valuable Information, (1913), McMains & Meyer Publishers, Milwaukee, WI
- Horace Kephart – The Book of Camping And Woodcraft: Guidebook For Those Who Travel In The Wilderness, (1910) and Camping and Woodcraft, a two volume set, Vol. 1 Camping (1917), Macmillan Publishing, New York, NY
- Calvin Rutstrum – The New Way of the Wilderness (1958), Macmillan Publishing, New York, NY
- Stewart Edward White – Camp and Trail (1907), Outers Publishing Company, New York, NY
Stonebridge lanterns were produced in galvanized steel, solid brass and aluminum. Woodcraft author Stewart Edward White highly recommended the galvanized model while author Horace Kephart recommended the brass version. Aluminum models were generally not recommended as the aluminum of the day was very soft and could not take the abuses of camping without soon being bent out of shape. Interestingly, Kephart’s own surviving lantern is an aluminum model.
The Stonebridge was an ingenious, feature-packed lantern. It had a flat, internal wind shield located beneath the peaked “roof” of the lantern. The wind shield, designed to protect the candle flame in high wind, contained an opening for smoke to exit the lantern. The lantern windows were made of isinglass (thin sheets of mica), a material that is transparent rather than crystal clear. Isinglass is somewhat flexible and more resistant to breakage than glass sheet but pressing on it too hard leaves whitish, cloudy spots that cannot be repaired. Isinglass is remarkably durable. Surviving Stonebridge lanterns manufactured more than 100 years ago are regularly found with the isinglass windows fully intact. However, the method used by Stonebridge to install the isinglass makes it nearly impossible to replace a window if damaged or missing.
The lantern also featured adjustable air vents that regulated the amount of air entering the lantern.
The floor of the Stonebridge featured a self-adjusting flexible wire candle holder and 6 rows of small round vent holes to admit air and allow for drainage if water were to enter the lantern. These vent holes are a bit of a nuisance as melted candle wax can (and occasionally does) drip out of them when the lantern is in use.
The lantern back was of a solid sheet that featured a brass rimmed port to allow the lantern to be hung on a nail. It also featured a wire bail from which the lantern could be carried or suspended.
Of course, the most important feature was its ability to collapse into a flat, rectangular box that took up little space in the crate, pack or warbag. Dimensions of the Stonebridge lantern are: Folded: 4 1/8” x 7” x 1 /2”. Unfolded: 4 1/8” wide, 4 /2” deep, 10” high to the top of the peak of the “roof” and 14” including the extended wire bail.
The Stonebridge lantern was such an important part of camping for so long, when America entered the modern lightweight backpacking age, one of the most popular candle lanterns turned out to be a Japanese copy of the Stonebridge in aluminum alloy. I owned one of these lantern back then but at the time did not know of it’s historical connection. If you would like to see the Japanese copy in 1970’s action, I recommend you check out the “Backpacker & Hiker’s Handbook” by William Kemsley Jr. (Stackpole Books, 2008). Kemsley was the founder of Backpacker Magazine and the book is chock full of 1970’s hiking photos, many of which show this interesting lantern.
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