Bo Sullivan identifies my vintage pull-down kitchen light

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Kitchen photo: Copyright Kit Latham.

1959-vintage-imperialite-kitchen-light1One of the highlights of my recent visit to Rejuvenation Lighting in Portland was when historian Bo Sullivan was able to – immediately – identify the vintage pulldown light over my kitchen table. I don’t think I’ve told this story before: One Friday afternoon after a hard day’s work — when I was driving home – I got the idea that I needed a vintage light NOW. This was when I was putting the final details of my kitchen together before contractor Kevin started. So as soon as I got home, I jumped on ebay and with 12 minutes to go spotted the light shown here above the tulip table. Of course, I snapped it up – for $12. Bo knows lighting – he knew exactly who made the light and showed it to me in a catalog —>

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Ta da!: It’s a 1959 Imperialite, made by Emerson-Imperial.

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The date on this catalog is Sept. 15, 1959. Hey, my light is 50 years old this year: Like Barbie, and me!

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This light – which I spotted on ebay last year – was on the same page with my light, in the catalog:

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Aren’t these all swoon-able?

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Here’s Bo with another catalog. Over the past 15 years, Bo has been collecting vintage marketing material from 20th century lighting companies. The collection is AMAZING. Rejuvenation is in the process of moving the collection from the factory… over to the store. There, it will be accessible to customers as a research and inspiration resource. And guess what – there’s a latte bar at the store, too. Now, that’s all I need to be happy: Good coffee… and a million vintage lighting catalogs. Bo, are you sure I’m invited back? I’ll never leave! Thank you again for sharing your knowledge. More Rejuvenation posts to come…

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Comments

  1. Milster says

    Pam,
    That’s so great that he could identify your light for you and I love it! I found one to go in my dining room for our renovation project as well but I think I need to have it rewired; did yours have the original wiring and did you use it? I think it might cost me a fortune to have it rewired and I got it, too, for a song for $8.00 at a church yard sale…Let me know about the wiring..

    • Pam Kueber says

      Milster, as my main focus is on aesthetics and new products rather than fix-it advice, I recommend consultation with qualified experts / professionals for questions like this one… Also note that I understand that there may be a problem with pulldown fixtures meeting current UL standards – and even more reason to talk to an expert. Good luck.

  2. Elvis (aka) Jane says

    FYI, Milster, a local (Portland) lighting repair place quoted us “around $40-$60,” to rewire a pull-down lamp. Not a fortune, but unlike Pam, we lost the eBay auction so we haven’t yet verified the quote.
    That Bo Sullivan is good! I loved that he identified it using the scalloped metal edge of the shade!

  3. sablemable says

    That is one beautiful light, Pam! Yes, I have 2 of these that I bought on Ebay. One is copper, the other is brass. The average price for these lights was about $15,00 (rough estimate) brand new (I have a 1957 Sears catalog and these lamps were listed between $12.97 to $21.97 and they had an assortment to choose from). There is a man in our community who does lamp/light repairs and he told us that he has repaired a lot of these lights from homeowners in our area. Fortunately, both of my lights don’t need repairs of any kind; I just have to have my husband install them.

  4. Steve says

    Bo know lighting, that’s for sure! We have a similar pull down light in our family room. It was a house warming gift from our super generous pals at Sputnik Housewares. I was going to have it rewired, but was told by the guy at HippoHardware that the pull-down mechanism isn’t code anymore and he wouldn’t touch it. I think maybe he just didn’t want to do it. We hung it up anyway and it’s working perfectly! Here’s a pic:

    • Pam Kueber says

      Thanks, Steve. Sorry – this particular blog installation does not allow for uploaded photos but you can link if it’s on flickr or picasaweb or whatever. Alternatively, send me a photo direction on my gmail account. Would love to see your light!

  5. Milster says

    Thanks for the info Jane & Pam; I’ll keep that in mind. I’ll most likely have it rewired so I don’t worry about my house catchin’ on fire while I’m out looking for more treasures. Better to be safe than sorry and we have a good source here who I can go to. I was, just for a moment, entertaining the thought of saving a few bucks, but not worth the worry in the long run.

  6. Glamorlux Nancy says

    So cool! My husband and I love “establishing provenance” (as we refer to it). Finding something that you have in your home, in a vintage magazine or catalog is like making a tangible connection with the past!

  7. Femme1 says

    Establishing provenance IS fun! Part of the interest for me in the mid-century modern era is learning about the designers, the manufacturers, and the history of the era.

    Just yesterday I picked up my pull-down light from the repair shop. I bought the lamp from eBay, and it was supposed to be in fine working order, but when I received it, the retractable cord didn’t work. Cost $75 to fix (which I thought was a little high). But I’m happy that I’ll be able to get it put up in my dining room this weekend. I’ll send Pam a pic, as I haven’t seen any lamp like this before. Gee, maybe Bo knows something about it…Bo, are you reading the blog??

  8. says

    Bo here – sorry, not so blog saavy. Feel free to send me a picture of your light and I’ll share anything I can about it. bo [at] arcalus [dot] com

    • Pam Kueber says

      Welcome, Bo! Personally, I think you should ask for a donation for every ID to go toward growing your collection!

    • pam kueber says

      Terry, there is an FAQ on this, and I have also added a link to the answer on to the Fast & Easy Lighting page.

  9. says

    how cool! thanks so much for passing this link along — it’s so fun to see the original catalog! did you need to use anything to clean yours up? ours could use a little polishing…

    • pam kueber says

      alston, my light has a light coppertone finish. it was in great shape. remember: these were not necessarily all gold-tone. as i said, mine has a reddish-gold coppertone look. it may be that yours is meant to be that way, too.

  10. Kathie says

    I just read about your kitchen reno today – and the light – and look what I just came across on NJ Craigslist … (link long gone)

  11. Sara says

    I’ve recently purchased a home built in the 60′s. My father found a wonderful pull down light with a wooden shade. The pully portion of the lamp is in good working order, but the fabric covered wires are in disrepair. I’ve checked in my area and haven’t had any luck finding any electrictricians or lamp repair stores who carry replacement wire, or who were willing to do repairs. Does anyone know on online retailer, or a lamp repair shop in their area?

    • pam kueber says

      Sara, please know that we have been told that this pull-down feature now is no longer to code. Hence, the lack of electricians willing to do repairs… Maybe if they “re make” it WITHOUT the pull down feature? That is, decide on the drop height — and make it to that specification. Keep the housing for the pulley — but only for show. Good luck.

  12. Trip Haynes says

    WOW my grandparents had a light exactly like that in the kitchen. I remember it would pull down then could be raised back up. It had old cloth wiring and the top of the lampshade lit up when turned on.

  13. Pamela Demarest says

    Hey! I was born in 1959, my name is Pamela, I own a 1959 ranch house in Sacramento and I HAVE A PULL DOWN LIGHT EXACTLY LIKE YOURS!! I saw the picture of your site profiled on a WordPress Thesis site. I can’t bear to part with this light although it’s not fitting in with my design theme…. it may be relocated to another part of the house…unless I get the “right offer”… ha ha

  14. katie says

    I inherited my grandparent’s home (circa 1915) which has been remodeled many times. The kitchen has something like a 4121 pull down brass with holes light, but it also has an upper portion that supports two additional bulbs that shine towards the ceiling covered by another brass shade. The gold pull down cord covering is quite worn and ratty looking. Have you found any way to replace or repair the cords. Also, I think there used to be a wooden knob cover that switches between upper, lower and all bulbs. I imagine it will be next to impossible to replace the knob? any suggestions? Ebay is very lean these days even though your page and posts seem to have recommended it before.

  15. James Monday says

    I recently purchased a Moe Fiesta style pull-down pendant ceiling light and wanted to repair the pull down mechanism. Does anyone know of a link that shows how to repair? BTW, love your website! Full of interesting info on these classic lights! Thanks, James

    • pam kueber says

      James, we do not have that… And please know: I have been told that the pull-down lights are no longer to code — please consult with a properly licensed professional.

    • George says

      I too have been looking for a site explaining the function and possible repair of the pull-down mechanism. I have two such mechanisms, one made in W. Germany perhaps in the 50s, and another, a more or less exact copy, made in Japan probably a bit later, along with their respective fixtures. I suspect the reason 50s pull-downs may now not be code is that [remainder of comment edited out by Pam; please, everyone, on safety issues - please find and consult with your own properly licensed professional.]

      • Ben says

        Aww man, I have been searching and searching the internet to learn why these clever pull-down mechanisms are not up to code, and just when George was about to answer my question, Pam cut him off.

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