Thursday, August 13, 2009

Can Anyone Tell Me Why Home-Based Gasoline Lighting Systems Never Caught On?

A reader of my "Must-Have Appliances" article in yesterday's AnnArbor. com kindly sent me this picture of a lighting system I'd never been aware of, for people not connected to city gas.

It's a home-based gasoline lighting system, featured in the March 1912 Popular Mechanics. The ad claims the "Instanto" system is "as perfect, handsome, and modern as city gas. . . Fuel is gasoline; perfectly safe."

The Ann Arbor company was looking for salesmen. "A splendid opportunity right now for hustling agents in large cities to sell to owners of summer cottages, country homes, and resorts."

The lamp fixture itself is lovely. The thought of gasoline running in pipes through my walls in every room of my home is less lovely. One wonders how long the Superior Manufacturing Company was in business. Thanks for this fascinating ad and new thing, reader!


Dusty D said...

To prospective salesman: "Explosive sales guaranteed!"

Edward Vielmetti said...

The Superior Manufacturing Company lived for quite a while, with offices on First and Second streets; a piece of me wonders whether their fuel handling systems eventually ended up as part of GT Products / Eaton. (completely unsubstantiated by any facts, but the geography is right).

Dusty D said...

Ed: That's a really interesting idea...I Googled to learn that GT Products/Eaton makes fuel systems for cars.

It would be very neat to find out if this old company successfully swerved with the times to modify their expertise with old fuel systems, in the lights, to totally new and different ones in cars.

Edward Vielmetti said...


This bio of Halstead Harley Seeley says in part:

n 1900 he met the inventor of a gasoline firepot, which was the basic principle for all blow torches and also offered the key mechanism for a gasoline lamp that was much brighter and more satisfactory than the kerosene lamps of that day. Although the invention had already been pirated, Seeley and his two brothers, Dana E. and Roy R. Seeley, organized the Superior Manufacturing Co., Ann Arbor, Mich., for manufacturing the lamps for indoor and outdoor use, including street lighting. Halstead H. Seeley was in charge of sales.

So here is our salesman!

He goes on to form Motor Products Co. and then King-Seeley Co, which in 1925 moved into the old Krause tannery building which later became GT Products (and which is now condos).

Time to update some arborwiki pages.

Dusty D said...

Wow. Super interesting! So we do indeed apparently have a story that stretches from gasoline lights to modern-day cars! If by "later became" we mean it was the same company that just changed its name.

Some nice sleuthing there, Ed! Great story!