Handel Lamp Company History
article by Jim Hoyle
Riverbed Scenic Reverse Painted Lamp auctioned for over $ 81,000
Philip Julius Handel first established the company in Meriden,
Connecticut in 1876. They specialized in high quality reverse painted lamp
shades and at the time were generally considered a moderately economical
alternative to the lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany ...
They also made leaded glass shades similar to Tiffany as well as vases, humidor
boxes and other decorative objects. The most popular lamps of the Art Nouveau
period (1890-1920) and the Art Deco period (1920-1939) were Tiffany, Handel,
Pairpoint and Duffner & Kimberly.
In 1885, Philip (age 19) and Adolph Eydam (age 21) formed a partnership and
created the “Eydam and Handel Company” in Meriden, Connecticut specializing in
glass decorating and lamp manufacturing.
In 1892 the partnership ended and the company later moved to larger facilities
in New York city in 1893 and was known as “Philip J. Handel” and later as
“Handel and Company”.
Initially the company used lamp bases that were made by other lamp companies
such as the Edward Miller Company and Bradley & Hubbard who were both located in
Meriden Connecticut at that time. Handel would also fit their shades to their
retail customers existing bases which were from other sources.
In 1902 Phillip opened his own foundry and began producing his own lamp bases.
On June 11, 1903 the company was incorporated and Philip, Albert Parlow, and
Antone Teich were the principals. The electrical sockets were manufactured by
The Hubbell Company in Hartford, Connecticut. Some of these sockets were labeled
by Hubbell with the Handel marking on them.
In 1906, Philip married Fannie Hirschfield his second wife.
In 1914 Phillip died and his wife, Fannie became the company's president of the
In 1918 Fannie remarried.
In 1919 William F. Handel, Philip’s cousin took control of the company.
During 1918, following World War I was a period of tremendous growth. The
economy was roaring and the company had assembled a very impressive and talented
group of artists and craftsmen. However, the Great Depression drastically
changed the company's fortunes and by 1929 the company was struggling. The
company ceased production completely in 1936.
The company is a prime example of fine American quality craftsmanship. Although
best know for their reverse painted glass lamps they are also well know for
their slag glass and stained glass Tiffany style lamps.
In 1906 Handel developed a new shade with a metal overlay they called "TEROCA"
and until 1920's this and other types of leaded lamps were a large part of the
Handel bases were most commonly made of a zinc alloy called spelter with a
bronze patina or finish. Some bases were made of genuine bronze. The marking was
commonly the company name on the bottom of the base which consisted of raised or
incised letters and/or a fabric label. Sometimes the marking would be underneath
the base or on top of the base. Lamp shades were marked on metal components
and/or on the glass itself. Some of the glass pieces are signed by the artists.
Many of the medium to larger lamp bases were wired with multiple sockets which
were operated by pull chains that had small and various shaped pull balls and
acorns on the ends of the chain.
Some of his glass artists are highly regarded and their works bring a premium
price. Their signatures can be seen on some lamp shades. Among these well
regarded artists are Bailey, Bedigie, Broggi, Gubisch, Matzow, Palme, and Parlow
It has long been a common practice to match and mix slag lamp shades, Tiffany
type shades and others to various lamp bases that were not original. Another
common practice has been to place an unsigned shade on a signed lamp base and
pass the entire lamp off as a original. Many lamps and shades are referred to as
being "Handel" simply because the style is similar to that of an original.
Many experts today suggest that about 90 % of all lamps called Handel were not
actually made by his company. This will continue to be an ongoing issue which
all sellers and buyers must be made aware. There are many lamps that are signed
but that are not authentic. There are many fake markings that appear genuine to
the untrained eye. Identification is a subjective process that few people are
qualified to do. Given the company's history it is sometimes difficult to prove
the negative: i.e. that a particular lamp is not an original. You will find that
a Handel lamp and shade with correct markings, attributes and documentation
commands a very premium price as compared to any lamp that looks like or that is
attributed to his company.
Some small and simple desk and simple piano lamps have recently sold for a few
hundred dollars. Generally the more complex ones sell for over $ 2,000 and the
intricate reverse painted lamps may sell for many thousands.
Shop authentic Handel