Great retro pull down lights for your kitchen, from Progress vintage 1961

I am very excited about my latest vintage marketing material – a large catalog from Progress lighting dated December 1961.

The catalog is about equally split between retro groovy… southwestern style “Rancher”…colonial Americana… and viva Las Vegas, which is something that we have not dived into too much on this blog so far — but I feel an itch coming on!

Reading through I’ve learned that these lights were not called “retractable” — which is the term that I have been using. Rather, they were simply called “pull downs”.

And the copywriting from the Progress catalog is very fun:

Pull-downs in refreshing variety, with matching ceiling pieces and other coordinates… In this section, smartly sophisticated metal; nonchalance and warmth of wood in both walnut “slats” and “matchsticks”; “Ranchers”, large-scale and handsome as the Southwestrn originals; authentic charming and heart-warming are the “Early Americans”… Light moves from its age-old stationary position and becomes a faithful service of satisfying mobility, ease and luxury….

Today, I’ve featured two of the more modern lines: (1) The Sophisticates, and (2) Mardis Gras. I also have the price list, and it looks like the largest pull downs sold for $35-$40 at the end of 1961. Today, these can still be found on ebay, in many varieties. If you’re lucky, you can get a great price for a very mint fixture, but sometimes the bidding gets going on a desirable piece. In general – I predict these will continue to get hotter and hotter in the marketplace.

My Progress catalog has some 40+ pages of fixtures in all to showcase — many of them really terrific — so stay tuned for more!

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh, how I love these lights! Years ago, when I was young and stupid and ignorant about my MCM fetish, my grandparents sold their lake cabin, which was a 50’s goldmine. One of these lights was there, and I kick myself every day for not knowing enough to nab it while I could have.

    Isn’t there anyone who makes pull-down lights anymore? It seems like such a useful idea for above dining room tables.

    • Rebecca S. Wilson says

      Where on ebay can you find these lamps….what do I type in on the search box?
      I have been searching, can’t find them, guess I am typing in the wrong thing.

      Rebecca

      • pam kueber says

        you need to type in a variety of terms – make Saved Searches. note: i understand these pull downs are not “to code”. please check with a professional before installing.

  2. SurfaceToAirMedia says

    Oooo…very much looking forward to the rest of the catalouge. Our house was built in 1961, and I’ve been searching for something to replace the monstrosity of a dining room chandelier. Have been checking eBay faithfully, too – just trying to find the right balance of “awesome” and “budget.” :) Thanks for posting this!

  3. laradevil says

    Hello – I’ve been browsing on this site over the past year and thank you for all the great ideas. I have a Pull lamp that works great – that I may need to part with. :( Is there a place to post that on this site? I moved into a 1959 House last December and have been making my Retro Renovations ever since. I also just found a great box of 50s/60s wallpaper in the basement… Among many other unique finds. Thanks

  4. digitalhuckle says

    Pam, I actually own a P 4121. It is currently in my garage, it used to be in my breakfast room but I took it out a few years ago. I have been thinking of re-wiring it and seeing if I can polish it up or spray paint it white and use it somewhere else in the house. I’ll try to take some pics of it to post to my Flickr account.

  5. says

    I had no idea what a retractable kitchen light was until I started reading Pam’s site. We bought a 1960 home a few months back and I was out in the laundry room (outside, attached to our carport) when I looked up and finally took notice of the light hanging in the rafters… I exclaimed “I wonder if this is one of those retractable thingys everyone’s always talking about!” Yeppers. It’s sitting out there all stapled up to the ceiling.

    Not in the best shape and the glass is missing so now I’m in search of a glass shade to add to it. Then I can refinish it and move in back into the house in a place of honor. :)

    Jami

  6. Skyla says

    I’m trying to replace parts to one of the Progress Sophisticates line, #4588, both the bottom glass and the pull down handle are broken. I inherited my parents 1963 home, and this light is not only retractable, they put it on a track that enables it to move back and forth along the length of the dining table too! I hope to find something that will at least make it “look” better. I need to clean the white cord/cable, it is covered with decades of dust and black oil furnace residue. and the brass coloring needs repainting(?). Any suggestions??

    Skyla

  7. Skyla says

    Try this site for the rayon cover: http://www.grandbrass.com/catalog.cfm?category=Wire&subcategory=All

    My lamp did not paint up right, followed directions, but it lost it’s “shine”, but it still is fine, would not recommend spray painting. May have found a pull down handle for it, and found the rayon cover on the above site. Now we have to replace the lightbulb fixture, so this little project is turning out to be rather unpleasent. Found out the spray paint goes thru the little holes in the shade (opps), so that was fun too. :( Since the lamp is now a different shine, I have to paint the track it was in, which should prove interesting as I have to do it ON the ceiling…sigh.

  8. Skyla says

    Well, found out the hard way (how else) what NOT to do for painting: I used the Rustoleum, sanded, primed, sanded, painted, etc EXACTLY to intructions, ended up doing the lamp 6 times total. :( EVERY time I touch it, try to dust it, and swear even so much as look at it, it scratches, comes off, etc. After two calls to Rustoleum, I find you that NO, you can not touch, dust, or clean this paint (ever)! Now thats makes too much sense, paint for interior use, RECOMMENED to use on my lamp, and you can not clean or handle it! So, not only does it not “shine”, it is a big bust in my opinion.

    ANY ideas out there for a brush on Brass paint!? I have alot of surface area to do, and would prefer to not have to take it off the ceiling….yet again.

    Thanks!
    Skyla

    • says

      Skyla, I checked in with Palm Springs Stephan and here is what he advises:

      “The only possibility I can think of is either of my two old standbys: plating or powder coating. Powder coating would be far cheaper than plating, and there are some truly amazing finishes available. I just had my Holly in-the-wall heater cover powder coated in “Extreme Chrome” and while it does not look like chrome, it does look very much like highly polished stainless steel, which is exactly the look I was going for. $125 for the 4 foot tall cover. Surely a lamp would be far less, though she may have to strip the current paint off first. And I know there are several shades of gold and brass available. And once it is done, the finish is highly durable … no worry about touching or cleaning.

      Hope this helps.” – Stephan

      I will also add, Skyla, that I also just bought an old light fixture this weekend that I was thinking of painting pretty much as you did. Now, I think I will give the powder coating a try. Gosh, sorry you went through all this… the issue with this old stuff is that it tests your patience (and pocketbook, often)…although the results are usually worth it. I need to put the photo of your light up for all to see. They will be jealous for sure, you have a very desirable one! – Pam

  9. Skyla says

    Well, I may just have to end up painting it a nice red enamel, (to go with my kitchen counter tops). Unfortunately the option of $$ on this lamp is a no-go, hubby says do it cheap or forget it. I have to agree, we will be about $50 into it, what with the other parts, and if I do a “colored” paint on it. I’ll still keep looking for an affordable option, but things aren’t working out too well. Sigh…

    When/IF I ever get this lamp done, I’ll send the pics, but it probably won’t be for a long time yet.

    We have endless work, refloor, rebuild a wall/hall, electricity, entire interior to paint, two story ranch, add to the living room oak floors where a hall came out and gave us about 18′ x 3′ of extra room. Good thing is the hardwood flooring IS doable, so will come after the hall/wall rebuild…someday. Just a part of the over-all fixing up that needs to be done. Hubby had to totally rebuild the entire front porch, deck, stairs (still needs to do stairs, but cement landing has to go in first), so it is just a big on-and-on-and-on, overwhelming thing. Will be worth it in the end.

    So you see, my poor little lamp is NOT on the money to spend radar, red enamel might be fun???

    Thanks for the reply!
    Skyla

  10. astrosonical says

    We had a wonderful thrift store that had a pull down with no glass. It was bent down the middle too. Seems like I saw it a couple of times before I decided I’d buy it in spite of the glass. The day I bought it, my keen detective instincts found what had to be the glass piece about two feet away. I thought it was a standard ceiling piece, but it fit after I carefully bent the metal part back into shape. The cashier charged me $3.50 for it! It’s a very clean piece, careful handling made me discover it will not pull down, it just hangs. No problem. It’s safely put away from harm until I get my affairs in order. I will have it tested first, I do not want to have it rewired because I don’t want the look ruined. Better that though, if necessary, than an electrical disaster.

  11. astrosonical says

    Thanks for the heads up Pam, I will try for a picture as soon as possible, it’s in a place that is not easily accessable. I can’t resist putting my two cents in whenever people talk about hanging lights and table lamps.

  12. nanasaidso says

    Skyla,

    Before you give up on spray paint, have you tried a clear topcoat spray? It’s available in different finishes so you can have it as shiny or matte as you like.

    I use it a lot to make cleaning easier. For instance, the open soffits in my kitchen (where grease and dust combine so nicely) are great for display, but a bitch to clean. I’m happy if I get it done twice a year, which isn’t a problem for ceramics, but not so good for my paper and fabric covered storage boxes. So, I sprayed them inside and out with clear topcoat. Worked great.

    I’ve used it on painted wood and metal, too. It should work fine on your light fixture, though I’d switch to florescent bulbs if you haven’t already.

  13. James says

    I need a 17″ round replacement glass for my pull-down light. Anyone know where they can be found at a reasonable price?

  14. John Taylor says

    Oh those Pull Down Lamps. We had one in a house that I lived in at an early age. Mom hated it with a passion. I thought it was so atomic. Needless to say she got rid of it and that was in the late 60’s I was in morning til just a few years back when I seen one at a second hand store and paid 40 bucks for it, so i picked it up and hung it in my Dining room. This one was a western lamp type with the globe but a few months back I found one that was big as a flying Saucer and the lady at the Antique Shoppe practically gave it to me for 10 bucks, Girl I screamed when I seen that thing and hung it in my 40’s 50’s and 60 style Kitchen.
    Thank you for letting me carry on and believe this or not. I look for them lamps when I go out, I believe that anyone that wants one, should have one. They are a true blue treat.

    JT

  15. chris says

    Wow – I have a P4307 in my kitchen!! It’s a fantastic fixture, and it looks just like a flying saucer preparing to land on my kitchen table – Mine is also on a track, so it pulls sideways, as well as up and down

  16. Kari says

    Hello!

    I have a great pull-down pendant lamp which came with the 1961 house which we just purchased. (The lamp is just one of many treasures.) Overall, the lamp is in pretty good shape, but unfortunately, the cloth wiring is terribly frayed. I took it down because it was looking like a safety hazard. I’d like to rewire it, but can’t find a source for the cloth covered three-wire cord which it currently uses. I tried some of the links here for sources, but can only find 2 wire cord. If anyone has suggestions, let me know!

    Thanks!
    Kari

    • Dave says

      Kari,
      Can I make an offer for your lamp?
      I’m trying my best to locate a couple of these!
      Let me know, thanks
      Dave

  17. Jita says

    I TOTALLY just scored one of these for next to NOTHING!
    Yippppeee!
    Thanks to Retro Renovation I know what to look for in light fixtures. So when I spotted this beauty I nearly screamed.
    So how much do these usually go for on eBay?

  18. Pam Kueber says

    Jita, congratulations! Send me a pic if you get a chance – retrorenovation at gmail dot com

    Regarding prices on ebay, I think they are kind of all over the place, depending on the snazziness of the light, and its condition. I know lots of readers are looking for them!

  19. Nelly says

    I found a funky ceiling light hanging in one of the bedroom of my dad’s rancher house (built in late 1950’s or early 1960’s). It looks just like a flying saucer with a retractable cord. it’s in great condition and works very well. It still retracts and the cord is in excellent condition too. I’m sure that it will make someone who is interested in vintage lighting fixtures very happy. It’s probably the original light fixture that the builder installed.
    What’s the best way to put this on the market for sale? Do you recommend Ebay – or would a swap meet be better?
    Where can I research current sale prices?
    Any and all information is sincerely appreciated.

    Thanks!

    • pam kueber says

      Go to a professional. We have been told that these old pulldowns are not to code – that’s why they cannot be made today. Best to check with an expert.

    • pam kueber says

      Hi, Trudy. These are all vintage, no one makes them new today. You can find them on ebay, etc. Note: We have been told they are not to code today. I always recommend you talk to an expert regarding rewiring / safety, etc. Good luck.

  20. Luke says

    I need help to ID my light. It looks like a P4313 but has 2 more lights on top (6 light total). It is a pull down light that also has a track with handles on the cord to pull it out. Let me know if you have any info on this light or any idea of where to go for info on this light.

    Thanks

  21. Ree says

    I have a pull down light which has no switch – on either the fixture of the wall.
    Did these have some kind of switch in the reel “egg” which turned them on when pulled down, and off when pushed up?
    Thanks for all your insight.

  22. K L Wulff says

    A number of people have mentioned that they have their pull downs attached to a track. Could someone post a pic of how that works or a brand name for the track. I can’t use a pull down unless I can reposition it as the table is constantly being moved depending on the number of diners.
    I grew up with one of these made by a company in Montreal I think. My parents left it in the house when they downsized. Rats!! It was great!
    Thanks
    Ken Wulff

  23. Jeannie says

    I have one of these pull down lights in my livingroom. The bottom globe is missing, exposing the 2 light bulbs in the fixture. Does anyone know where I can get a replacement? It measures approx. 13 1/2 in. in diameter.

  24. Kelley says

    I just moved into a home built in the late 50’s that had one of these pull down lights in the kitchen. It hung down too low so I had to removed it. It’s in great shape – the globe is in tactc, the brass needs so buffing and the cord is frayed, but all in all it looks great. Any idea on how I can find someone who might be interested in buying it? I know for the right person who knows what they are doing (I do not) that it would be a great piece cleaned up. I don’t want to just throw it away. I wish I could use it…

  25. Spike says

    I just got a lamp that looks a lot like the 4121 except that it has atomic stars painted on the top glass. Is there any way to find out what year it was produced? Here’s a link to it on my Instagram site: http://instagram.com/p/iBosWIp3VV/

    Any info on it would be super helpful. Thanks!

    Spike

  26. Pam says

    How difficult is it to fix the retractable part of these lights? I have my eye on one but the retractable cord no longer retracts all the way.

    • pam kueber says

      I do not know. Please know that I have been told that these lights are no longer to code — you should find your own properly licensed professional to assess the situation and to make informed decisions. Good luck!

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