The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, provides a brief explanation about the Aladdin Lamp:
The subject of a story in the Arabian Nights. The young boy Aladdin acquires a magic lamp that, when rubbed, brings forth a genie, who grants Aladdin’s wishes to win the hand of the sultan’s daughter and to build a palace. The magician who first gave Aladdin the lamp steals it back, but Aladdin regains the lamp, and he and the sultan’s daughter live happily ever after.
The lamp that Americans of the 1930s and 1940s came to know as the Aladdin Lamp was already in use in Germany during the early part of the 20th century. The flat wick kerosene lamp was common in the rural south when I was a youngster, but the Aladdin Lamp provided much more light because the flame heated a frameless mantle that hung over the flame. We had one Aladdin Lamp which we kept in the “big room” where both my parents and I slept until during my early grammar [now elementary] school years. This was literally our “living room.”
All of my evening school work was done in the light of the bright Aladdin Lamp. I thought that was the brightest light I had ever seen at night, and it was.
A few years ago, during a speaking engagement, I stayed with the James A. Metcalf family in Cullman, Alabama. They had the largest collection of Aladdin Lamps I have seen. Many of them had been refitted with electric fittings to make them usable today, like the one in our photo. I asked if he knew how much “wattage” one of the original lamps provided. He told me that it was about 60 watts.
Lamps like this provide us with a reminder of the wonderful illustration used by Jesus.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV)
And, we recall the illumination and guidance provided by the LORD and His word.
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105 NAS)
This photo above has been prepared in a size large enough to be used in PowerPoint presentations by my preaching/teaching friends. Just click on the image for a larger one.
I have not seen any of the Metcalf family since those few days in their home, but today at noon I learned of the death of James Metcalf. Immediately I recalled the lamps he had and how much I learned about them during that visit. My condolences to his good family.