The glass shade in this lantern is blown of colorless glass lined with transparent red glass. It is pressed and has a molded inscription “GILLILAND’S DIOPTRIC LENS/PATENTED AUG 10TH 1852 BROOKLYN FLINT/GLASS COMPANY 30 SOUTH WILLIAM ST/NEW YORK”. The metal part of the lantern is marked “HOWARD & MORSE MANUFACTURERS/NEW YORK”.
John L. Gilliland, founder of the Brooklyn Flint Glass Works, obtained the patent listed on this dioptric lens. The patent was important because it produced a lens which required no extra shaping by cutting or polishing. It became a very successful product for the Brooklyn glass works. The lantern can be dated fairly closely, because the Brooklyn company went out of business in 1866. The factory was sold to Amory Houghton and his son, Amory Jr., who moved their business to Corning, N.Y. two years later. The Brooklyn Flint Glass Company made a variety of products, including cut glass table wares, which they exhibited at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London in 1851. They also had an exhibit in the New York Crystal Palace in 1853, which included a lighthouse lens made by this patented method. In spite of the fact that the Brooklyn company was successful for more than 40 years, it is rare to find anything which can be reliably attributed to the firm. This lantern is one of the few objects in the Museum’s collection that we are sure was made in Brooklyn.
Interestingly, in 1909, Corning Glass Works developed a red glass shade for use by railroad brakemen, which did not break from changes in temperature. Previously, brakemen who had to use their lanterns in snowy weather found that the temperature contrast between the flame inside the lantern and the weather outside, would cause the shade to break, so it was a significant accomplishment when Corning developed a red glass shade that would not break under those adverse weather circumstances.