Thread Number: 73345  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
Porcelain lampholders
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Post# 968759   11/18/2017 at 16:12 by fan-of-fans (Florida)        

Sometime as a kid I was fascinated with the porcelain light fixtures. I remember at my parent's old house there was one mounted in the attic above the access hatch, it had a grounded outlet and pull chain but never had a bulb in it.

Then the house I live in now, it has the porcelain fixtures in the closets, but no pull chain or outlet, the switch is outside the door. There are two more in the attic with the switch by the hatch, and there are two in the garage.

As a kid, whenever we went to the hardware store or lumberyard, I would go straight to the electrical aisle and look at the lampholders and lamp sockets with pullchains. I would beg my dad to get me one but he wouldn't. Then one year I got one for Christmas, and a couple more from flea markets as time went on. One I have is a brown bakelite type material.

Anyway I've always thought these were neat and I'm on the lookout for really old ones. I was at a swap meet last year and there were some octagon shaped ones. I'm not really sure sometimes which ones are very old or not.

I admit I've picked up a couple more from the home centers since my interest has been rekindled, and no one can say no. LOL One thing I've noticed on the newer ones is the porcelain is more of a gray color than the older ones that were bright white. Also almost all the newer porcelain ones I've seen have key slot screw mounts which probably makes them easier to mount to the box, but the really old ones didn't seem to have that.

Whenever I go to older houses I try to see if there are lights in the closets, my friend's house from the 60s has them mounted over the closet doors, so you have to look up to see them, but the house was remodeled and they must have disconnected them as they don't meet code anymore, and they just painted over the, lightbulb and all! lol

I know they can't put them in closets anymore, they have to have shades over them now, but I'm not sure when they stopped. I've seen houses from the mid 80s that still had them over the closet doors.

Also some really old houses have them mounted next to the front door as a porch light! I guess it worked and was cheap.





Post# 968790 , Reply# 1   11/18/2017 at 17:30 by GusHerb (Chicago/NWI)        

That sounds absolutely ridiculous to disconnect the fixtures and just paint over them. Why not just replace them with globe lights? When we rewired my grandmas house we replaced the porcelain lampholders with globe fixtures with a pull chain to meet code.

I too had a mild fascination with them as a child. My memories more center around where they were used though, a lot of that being my grandmas basement. There was a switch at the top of the stairs that controlled the light at the bottom of the stairs, the storage room had 3 lights on a switch but the rest of the basement were pull chain and I hated it because that required me to walk into the dark corner where I couldn't see in order to turn the light on. There was about 10 porcelain lamps down there all together.

When we rewired the house, my dad just wanted to wire all the lights the same way, having to turn each one on with a pull chain. I wanted to wire them all into the switch at the top of the stairs. Long story short I got my way (I was doing most of the wiring work anyway!) and every single light except the one in the closet under the stairs was on the switch. All those light bulbs coming on together was enough to make other lights in the house flicker when you flipped the switch, I put them on their own 15 amp circuit though (and then some electrician later on got the bright idea to wire the front porch outlet and two living room outlets he installed into that lighting circuit 🙄).


Post# 968833 , Reply# 2   11/18/2017 at 21:30 by fan-of-fans (Florida)        

Ha ha, I bet that was a big load having them all come on at once. I agree they should have just put shaded fixtures, not sure what happened there but it seemed kind of silly to do that and not to at least cap off the junction boxes.

I guess too, sometimes I found the porcelain lights scary as a kid. It sounds silly but to me the screws looked like eyes, and seeing them up in a dark closet made it kind of look like a monster looking down.

It seems like these fixtures were very common in houses back in the 50s-the house on one side of me which was basically two old cottages put together had them in every closet plus the laundry shed. The house on the other side of me, I walked through just before they tore it down, but I can't remember now if it had them.

I guess in the 50s and older houses it made sense to have them because the bedrooms back then often didn't have a ceiling light, so the closets would be dark.


Post# 969118 , Reply# 3   11/20/2017 at 15:15 by lotsosudz (Sacramento, CA)        
Our family home had them

lotsosudz's profile picture
All of our closets had lights with pull strings. My Dad built both of our homes, and he put lights in all the closets. My mother insisted on it. I always found it very helpful.

Post# 969132 , Reply# 4   11/20/2017 at 17:59 by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

ken's profile picture
My father built the addition to my parents home in 1966. All the bedroom closets have an exposed porcelain fixture with a pull chain. All the fixtures down cellar are the same except for one that comes on with the switch at the top of the stairs. None of those fixtures have ever been replaced and still work fine today. They are Leviton brand.

All the POS junk plastic Chinese made Leviton fixtures of the same type but with outlet I purchased at Home Depot and installed in the cellar of my house when I purchased a few years back lasted about 25-30 on/off cycles, at most, before the switch broke and now cant be switched on. It wasn't like I was running down there 20 times a day switching the lights on and off. If I bothered to complain to Leviton and they replaced them Id be getting more junk to replace junk. Leviton used to produce a quality product. Now they produce junk like most companies do.

Id like to find about 15-20 of that type fixture that are 40-50 years old. Even if used they'd be better than the new junk being produced today.


Post# 969136 , Reply# 5   11/20/2017 at 18:17 by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

Many of the old ones are smaller; intended for mounting on 3 1/2" boxes instead of the more common 4" size.

Post# 969476 , Reply# 6   11/22/2017 at 23:32 by fan-of-fans (Florida)        

Yeah, the octagonal ones I saw were smaller diameter and had just the one hole on each side.

All of the ones I have and installed in the house have longer screw slots that can be broken out more to fit a smaller box.

Interesting and unfortunate to hear the newer ones aren't as good quality. Just looking at them I don't see much difference between the ones I've picked up recently and older ones I have. But none of mine may be truly antique.





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