Find of the Week: Carbide Bicycle Lantern

Antique carbide bicycle lantern made by Twentieth Century Mfg. Co., marked "made in US of America."

Carbide lamps or lanterns such as this operate by a simple process of producing flammable acetylene gas through the combination of a slow, controlled drip of water on calcium carbide. This creates a chemical reaction that releases a flammable vapor, which escapes through a gas jet in the center of the lantern's reflector pan. Once ignited, it creates a flame that illuminate the cyclist's way. A reflector helps magnify the light, and a lever or knob controls the intensity of the light by dripping more or less water on the carbide. The more water, the more acetylene gas produced, so the greater the flame. A red lens on one side and a green lens on the other designate left and right.

Our lantern looks to be complete, with no evident damage, just the patina of age. It's 5.5" tall (not including the handle) and 4" from handlebar bracket to front lens.

See it in person at Gallery on Main. To see additional photos showing condition and details, visit our Etsy shop.

Ask a Question About This Piece