Image above: Illustration by Julia Rothman
The staple of college dorm rooms and office desks everywhere, the Anglepoise lamp was invented in the 1930s by an English automotive engineer who specialized in the design of vehicle suspension systems. George Carwardine owned a factory in Bath where he invented a spring that could be moved easily in every direction but remained fixed once placed in a position. George didn’t set out to invent a lamp; he just liked tinkering around with springs. He patented his new spring design then looked for an application.
When searching for an application, George looked no further than his own factory and realized how useful it would be for the workman in his factory to be able to position a light so that it could illuminate a particular component. He designed a heavy base to stabilize the lamp and then a shade that would concentrate the beam.
Image above: 1953 Anglepoise lamp advertisement
George licensed the design to Herbert Terry & Sons, a manufacturer based in Redditch who supplied springs to his factory. Charles Terry, the eldest son, was interested in expanding the business beyond springs, and the lamp seemed like the perfect solution. Initially, George wanted to call the lamp Equipoise, but the name was rejected by the Patent Office on the grounds that it was an existing word (equipoise means an equal distribution of weight), so the pair settled on Anglepoise. The original Anglepoise lamp was marketed for industrial use.
Read on after the jump for more about the Anglepoise lamp + sources…
Image above: Oversized Anglepoise floor lamp from Sneak Peek: Jimmie Martin & Rick Schultz
At the time, it was a complete original, and the form of the lamp made its function transparent. That first lamp was produced by Herbert Terry & Sons. Today, Simon Terry, the great-great grandson of Herbert Terry, still directs the company, which continues to manufacture the Anglepoise lamp. Norwegian engineer Jacob Jacobsen obtained production rights to produce the lamp in Oslo and market it to all countries outside the UK and the Commonwealth. He varied the design slightly and produced a lamp known as the “Luxo L-1,” which is sold at Design within Reach.
Image above: Statement piece! Huge Anglepoise lamp in the home of British stylist Abigail Ahern (from Sneak Peek: Abigail Ahern). The company created a Giant Anglepoise to celebrate their 70th birthday in 2006.
Since 1986, the Anglepoise has had a special place in popular culture. The lamp was the subject of the Pixar Studio’s first short, Luxo Jr., where the two main characters are Anglepoise desk lamps. Subsequently, the Pixar mascot became an Anglepoise lamp that appears in the opening credits of Pixar movies — the lamp hops into the frame and replaces the “i” in Pixar.
I’ve rounded up some of my favorite Anglepoise-style lamps above, but if you’re looking for an authentic vintage version, here are some things to look out for:
- The 1933 prototype had a small shade with two springs and a curved base. (Prototype “1208”)
- The 1934 version had three springs and a larger rimmed shade with perforations. (This is the more iconic “1227” design.)
- The base was then reduced to two tiers in the late ’30s.
Image above: 1. Carpenter Lamp, $69.95; 2. Wood Lamp, $297; 3. Red Anglepoise, $250; 4. Tertial Work Lamp, $8.99; 5. Original 1227 Anglepoise Lamp, $250; 6. JJ Limited Edition Table Lamp, $209; 7. Studioilse Halogen Lamp, $550; 8. Architect Aqua Lamp, $32.95