Of Coincidence and Stiffel Lamps

The Stiffel
The Stiffel

A few weeks ago I was sitting at home and realizing with some annoyance that I needed a lamp. I’d found myself in the habit of turning on every light in the apartment just to read at night so I took myself boldly unto the local furniture consignment shop to peruse their offerings. Because of the arrangement of my apartment at the time the added bit of furniture would have to be a floor lamp and sadly all the consignment store had on hand was an assortment of table lamps. I gave up the search and went home to my Cimmerian apartment but was nagged by the image of one lamp in particular. In a fit of energy that evening I rearranged the apartment to accommodate a table lamp and bounded hopefully back to the consignment store the next day.

I arrived at the store, held the door for a woman coming in behind me and found the lamp that had caught my eye yesterday, referred to hereafter as “the Stiffel”, still awaiting a buyer. Placing myself next to it in a clearly “this is my lamp now, back off” posture I looked around to catch the eye of the proprietor. As I looked up I found the woman who had come in just behind me looking at me with eyes the size of saucers. She approached gasping, “are you interested in that lamp? That’s my lamp!” Over the next several minutes she related the lamp’s history as it served happily in her mother’s house for many years. In her home it was always referred to simply as “The Stiffel” and so it shall be known in my home as well.

All this rather unlikely happenstance does put one of a mind of just how oddly the world operates at times. If I had stopped anywhere different for lunch that day or failed to drive that particular route or even left five minutes earlier I would never have had the story. One hesitates to assign such things to some intentional mechanism but it is certainly very welcome when things somehow turn out in such mysteriously perfect ways.


  1. From the story it sounds as though the lamp is old enough to be from the golden years of Stiffel production — among the finest things crafted in America at the time (I think production has moved off shore recently).

    It may need rewiring at some point. In my experience, the older ones always had ceramic sockets, and rarely wore out. I saw one that had been the main office lamp for a fellow for more than 50 years and the switch appeared pristine. If you get it rewired, be careful to keep any parts that come off. While you may never regard it as such, it will be an antique, and perhaps an antique of some value, at some point. (Keep the receipt, keep the story.)

    Classic design, wonderful workmanship — and all for the mundane task of giving light. Of course, making light is no mundane thing, historically.

    In one of my on-the-beach periods, I spent a couple of years in a lighting store. Thanks for reminding me of great stuff that is worth seeking out and hanging on to. Good fortune.

Please leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s