What is Hollow Wire Lighting?

To make things really easy to understand, remember how a Coleman lantern works: You fill the tank and pump it up so there is pressure on the fuel tank. The liquid fuel under pressure is vaporized by the generator and is burned in the mantles. “Hollow wire” means that there is a large tank outside or somewhere in the house (basement?), where you pressurized the fuel tank with a bicycle pump. In the house, the various fixtures were connected to the large tank via 1/8” copper tubing, hence the word “hollow wire”! There were actual hand tools made (like a modern day router) where the beams in the house were grooved to hide the tubing. This is a bare bones explanation, but I hope you get an idea as to how the system works. If you wish to nitpick my explanation, feel free, but don’t tell me about it, as this is a fun site, rather than a college course!

Hollow Wire Lighting
Hollow Wire Tanks
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What is this site about?

There were many manufacturers of hollow wire systems back in the early 1900’s. My belief is that Coleman always led the charge and lasted the longest because they used brass rather than steel on their products. Quality! Regardless who made them, they all ran the same way: pressurized fuel.

My collecting of Coleman started in 1992, and I always enjoyed bring an old lamp or lantern back to life. This eventually became boring for me. I’m 75 now and I don’t know when I’ll croak, so I thought of bringing my hollow wire collection to life.

When I fired up my very first one (an 18V), I was just amazed as to how beautiful these fixtures are with the various glass globes and so many mantles. I was so impressed, that it came to me to start a website devoted just to hollow wire that was lighted and working. It doesn’t have to be Coleman! For me the beauty of the hollow wire lamps is when they are alive and glowing. Hanging dead, they are not very impressive. When you light them, the come to life and develop a personality of their own. Most of these lamps are 100 years old give or take a few years.

I will be slowly placing photos on this new website and I invite you to add yours! This website business is new to me, but if you send me the pictures I will get them posted here. Just pictures, no stories! If you have the name and model number, I think we can add that to the picture. This is not about who has what, but rather a sort of educational site so folks that are interested in collecting hollow wire fixtures can see what is out there. Hopefully they will be encouraged to bring their own hollow wire back to life. People will be able to look here and take a journey back in time, as electricity brought an end to hollow wire lighting.

This is not just my site, but will also be the contributor’s site, so it will be “our” site.

Thank You for visiting,
Don Colston

Have a picture of your hollow wire light to share? Attach it in an email and I'll put it in the gallery!