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Corcoran Lamp History?


Dandy Dave
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Looking around the web a little I see there is not a lot about the Corcoran Lamp Company. I see that they made Lamps for Brass era cars early on. Just recently some questions came up about the electric Head, Side, and Tail lights used on some of the early autos. Starting around 1913 or 1914 Cadillac, Buick, and I'm sure some other makes of cars used early electric lights made by Corcoran. Also it seems that in 1916 they became Corcoran-Victor. Looking though the parts book for my 1915 Buick in particular. The tail lamp is listed as available as a complete unit with a license bracket but no breakdown of individual pieces. It would be nice to know the History of the company and also if Corcoran supplied parts books to auto dealers for the lights they made? Anyone have anything on this early manufacturer? Dandy Dave!      

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I tried searching but all I seem to come up with is a lot of stuff for sale. Not much Corcoran history or anything like a book of their products. I see their lights were also use extensively on Ford Model T's. Some of what I do find will not open. Would be nice to find a salesmen's book. Dandy Dave! 

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Interesting timing on this post - as I was preparing my seminar for Philly this year (Brass era automobiles) I was doing some research on brass lamps.  Aside from my own collection of lamps, pictures from other collections, and an assortment of early accessory catalogs, little seems to exist in one consolidated location.  I'm sure that early Motor Magazine articles, or Automobile Trade Journal information will shed some light on the company but someone with more time that I have needs to pull it together.  I met someone several years ago at Hershey who was researching the history of Gray and Davis.  I believe they were part of the family that owned the company and the plan was to publish a book on the history.  Don't know if that ever happened or not. 

 

It seems the company was funded by Thomas Corcoran, then later became Corcoran-Brown.  The John Brown lamp company is another one that needs some research!

 

Several early auto manufacturers used Corcoran including early Buicks.  It was one of several brands that appeared on Fords. 

 

I'm not 100% positive but always thought Gray and Davis supplied Cadillac lamps. 

 

Contrary to popular belief, early electric lamps were available long before 1912 - I have some listed in early accessory catalogs as old as 1908.  These were side marker or tail lamps powered by battery packs usually, and used mainly when the vehicle was parked along a public street in town.

 

I find the topic fascinating as it goes so well with my lamp collection.  I may drop Chris Ritter a note and see if he can identify some sources of info to dive into.

 

 

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My seminar in Philly was a real "myth buster" on lamps.  It was always assumed that Nickel plated lamps came later - not so, sometimes Nickel was a more expensive option on lamps.  I have accessory catalogs going back to 1903 and not only could you buy them in brass, but nickel plating, and even black painted finish.  Some of the very earliest lamps circa 1900 were combination black painted steel and brass or nickle plated rims, tops or handles.  It was also always assumed that bail handled sidelamps were earlier than square - not so, I showed catalog pages that offer both square and bail handled versions in the same brand.   Here are a couple of interesting catalog pages including a 1908 Solar Lamp catalog that shows a selection of black and brass finish lamps.  Ive added a couple of other early catalog pages showing the variety of lamps and styles as well as an early 1907 electric tail lamp.  The pair of lamps shown are European, Polkey brand and they are part steel and part brass 

 

It will be interesting to see what surfaces here.  Indeed it might make a great article for Antique Automobile magazine (or series).  If it were all in a book I'd be a buyer.

Terry

 

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A year or two ago I sold a Corcoran tail Lamp for a Model T, to a gentleman in Ohio. I suspect this person can fill you in on the history of the company, etc., because, as it turned out, his name was Corcoran and he was a grand or great grand son of the original dude. He bought my light off ebay, so I also suspect he might have a considerable collection of the varieties, etc., of the lamps' evolution. If you will send to me your email address, I will attempt to open a line of communicationfor you. I am certain I should have something in my email sent folder. My email is prs518@live.com.

Perry

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Perry, sent you an email.  Anxious to try and make contact with the Corcoran family members you mentioned.  I've been emailing Chris at the AACA Library and they have some advertising material but so much of it is still buried away in old catalogs, trade journals and automotive periodicals.  It will take a lot of digging to pull it all together into one place.  I think it would be an exciting project (long term) and I'll try to begin by first seeing what research may have already been done and printed elsewhere.  I know there is a wonderful book on early bicycle lamps that is now out of print, and am anxious to see if the Gray/Davis family ever assembled enough material to publish.  I think any reference work developed here would need to include some histories of the major companies.  I know that some of them bought out others - Dietz purchased C.M.Hall I believe, and somehow the John Brown organization ended up sharing the Corcoran name.  We'll see what unfolds as I dive into this.   It may never get to book form but at lease at some point there will be a folder full of stuff to hand over to the AACA Library.

 

All thoughts, guesses, inputs, rumors, etc. and especially any contact info with those who know more than I do would be welcomed.

Terry

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The Corcoran Lamp company was located at 712 Reading Rd, Cincinnati Ohio.  Is would seem that the Corcoran family was involved on several levels with the early automobile supply business as they also operated the Corcoran Manufacturing Company making automotive trunks, tools and other supplies.  This business apparently grew out of the lamp business which grew rapidly during the brass era.  Apparently the Corcoran's learned the lamp business while working at Victor Lamp Company, also in Cincinnati.

 

What I find interesting is that during my research on Cincinnati brass era cars, I don't find any of the local auto manufacturers listing Corcoran Lamps on their brochures!  I guess there wasn't any home town loyalty in those days either!

 

Hope this helps as a start.

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  • 1 year later...

The Corcoran Lamp Company was started by Thomas H. Corcoran after the civil war in Cincinnati, OH.

They made carriage lamps. At one point they were considered the largest lamp manufacturer in the US.

 

Thomas H. had 5 sons and 3 daughters. The oldest was my great grandfather, Thomas J.

Other siblings were John L, Edward B, George, William J,  Alice, Jenny,  and Mary

 

Thomas J. took over the Carriage lamp business in the late 1800's and in 1905 he discontinued marketing to the carriage lamp industry and focused on manufacturing auto lamps. 

William Corcoran (brother of Thomas J) started Corcoran Manufacturing Co. They produced aftermarket products for Ford, Chev and others.  One of their brands was "Peerless".

Edward started the Victor Lamp Co. and was a competitor of Corcoran Lamp until Thomas J bought out his brother around 1918. The company became Corcoran-victor Lamp Co.

 

Corcoran Lamp Co had 2 plants. One plant in Cincinnati and one in Detroit. After the Detroit plant closed, (early teens I believe), William Durant, a friend of Thomas J, assembled the first Chevrolet in the Corcoran plant.

 

In the '20s, the company reverted to "Corcoran Lamp Co, dropping Victor from the name.  Corcoran then bought out Jno. Brown Lamps in Columbus Oh. Not sure of the date but the company became Corcoran-Brown and continued under that name until the early 1940's when the company was sold to "Electric Auto Lite".  During the 40's, Corcoran-Brown produced a large variety of lamps for the military. Thomas J died in 1940.

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  • 8 months later...

Hi, My first attempt at this forum,

In own a car called a LITTLE 4 built in flint Michigan in 1912-13

In my research my car has lights made by Corcoran and believe there was a Corcoran factory or warehouse 

in the same street as the LITTLE was built.  In a reply in February  17, 2016  the top left hand light is the same light used on my car

That advertising leaflet is helpful in my research

Thankyou Alan Carpenter [AUSTRALIA]

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  • 2 years later...
On 2/14/2016 at 11:34 AM, Dandy Dave said:

I tried searching but all I seem to come up with is a lot of stuff for sale. Not much Corcoran history or anything like a book of their products. I see their lights were also use extensively on Ford Model T's. Some of what I do find will not open. Would be nice to find a salesmen's book. Dandy Dave! 

Sorry I'm years late to this conversation but I do have a salesbook from the Thos. H. Corcoran lamp company. No year printed but it has 21 models listed: each with body sizes, model name, extras available, and prices.  Thom H was my great, great grandfather

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On 2/18/2016 at 8:19 PM, prs519 said:

A year or two ago I sold a Corcoran tail Lamp for a Model T, to a gentleman in Ohio. I suspect this person can fill you in on the history of the company, etc., because, as it turned out, his name was Corcoran and he was a grand or great grand son of the original dude. He bought my light off ebay, so I also suspect he might have a considerable collection of the varieties, etc., of the lamps' evolution. If you will send to me your email address, I will attempt to open a line of communicationfor you. I am certain I should have something in my email sent folder. My email is prs518@live.com.

Perry

Hey Perry,

I think the Corcoran you are talking about is me. Thom. H. Corcoran was my great, great grandfather

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My 1912 McLaughlin Buick model 35 has a nice pair of Corcoran headlights. My 1912 Buick has all Corcoran lights. Maybe some day I will take them to the Corcoran factory location for pictures. 
 

Tom Muth

 

Cincinnati, Ohio

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  • 1 month later...

Hello my fellow antique enthusiasts! 
My name is Kenzie! I stumbled onto your forum during my research into Corcoran Lamps made for Ford! I happen to “junk across” this lamp and pulley assembly in a recent barn dig and cant for the life of me find what it was used for! I do believe the lamp is early 1900’s and is definitely kerosene! The pulley assembly looks to go with it...I will attach the pictures for you to investigate!!

 

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through your responses and hope my new found piece of history can find its story here! 

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The pulley assembly is for some other type of lamp, perhaps from an old church. 

The automobile lamp you have is part of a Model T Ford side lamp from 1913-14.  Prior to that they were all brass, and after 1914 the style changed completely to a more rounded all steel lamp.  1915 did have a little brass trim on it, but Ford was phasing out brass on the Model T by that time.

 

You are missing the font (oil container) and the burner assembly.  You should be able to find the missing pieces, or another parts-donor lamp on ebay.  Don't know where you are located but if you able to attend a swap meet that has a focus on pre-war cars and parts, you'll see plenty of lamps like these.  That might also be a great source for some parts to complete yours. 

 

Do you have a Model T?

Terry

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Thanks Terry! 

The only info I got was that it was all to be used on a delivery/commercial, early style model t truck restoration, that was left unfinished and parted out to family over the years! 

 
Unfortunately I do not have the pleasure of owning one but throughly enjoy collecting and restoring old car parts!

I happen to know a wonderful man who just purchased two and was willing to take them off of my hands! Knowing now what I need to complete it I will definitely be looking to gather the missing pieces for him and digging deeper on the pulley!

 

thank you so much for all of your help! 🤗

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  • 4 weeks later...

 I have had this catalog for awhile.    Corcoran- Victor Co. Cincinnati Ohio,  9 1/4" x 6 1/8" 32 page string bound catalog.

      It shows three plants, A - B - C on the inside cover,   some of the pages show red tail lamps and also refers to 1915, 1916, 1917 "T"  Fords.  On the last page there are two varieties of running board tool boxes.      Gary

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Great catalog. Is it available?  Would love to have it in my collection and use for further research.  The story needs to be written and I'm more than willing to do that and provide it to Antique Automobile Magazine.

Terry

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