Digest>Archives> May 2006

Collecting Nautical Antiques

Lighthouse Drip Pan

By Jim Claflin


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Jay Carney of Connecticut recently sent us some wonderful photos of a set of brass oil refilling cans and drip tray and wondered if they were used by the Lighthouse Service.

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The set that Jay pictured consists of a brass drip tray on brass feet, with two oil filler cans. The drip tray is double bottomed with a drain port, intended to capture spilled oil for reuse as the cans were filled. Both the cans and tray are marked on the bottom with the logo and manufacturer’s name: “National Metal Spinning & Stamping Co. NY.”

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The National Metal Spinning & Stamping Co. manufactured marine lanterns and other brassware during World War I and possibly later. Their lanterns had a movable shield to cover the flame and were intended for

outdoor use. We have seen a number of oil cans and other brass items with their logo over the years.

These sets, though collectible, were probably not used by the Lighthouse Service except in special cases. All Lighthouse Establishment/Service items were so marked from the earliest days up until the Coast Guard took over in 1938. Indeed, all but a few brass items were actually made by the Lighthouse Service at their lamp shop at the Staten Island Lighthouse Depot and were so marked — even their paint brushes, paper, every hand tool, etc. were marked so as not to be misappropriated. From the photos, you will note that the quality and appearance of the Lighthouse Service items is much better.

I have found one can (in 15 years of searching) that was made by National Metal Spinning Co. and used by the Lighthouse Service, but this piece was indeed marked on the side with a soldered on brass cartouche bearing, the oval Lighthouse Depot Lamp Shop stamping. We think that this can may have been purchased in the late 1930s when the operations at the Lamp Shop were winding down. I have heard of a similar National Metal Spinning tray so marked as well, but have never seen it and it has not been authenticated. If it turns out to be marked as a Lighthouse Service piece, it is one of a very few and would be a good find.

Nevertheless, the unmarked National Metal Spinning set is a collectible set and attractive for display. I would estimate the cans to have a value of about $150 each (some museums now use them for display, rather than risking the more expensive authentic Lighthouse Service cans), and the tray in the neighborhood of $250. A similar but Lighthouse Service set, properly marked on each piece, would fetch upward of $6,000 from an advanced collector or museum.

This was a good find and we thank Jay for bringing it to our attention.

This story appeared in the May 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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