Monday, September 9, 2013

Shedding a little light on Breyer Western Horse Lamps

(My apologies for the terrible pun. I couldn't resist.)

Most collectors are familiar with the "Ranchcraft" line of Breyer woodgrain lamps sold by Dunning Industries in the 1960s and 1970s. They featured models such as the Running Mare and Foal, the Fighting Stallion, the Family Arab Foal, and even a few animals like the Longhorn Steer and the Brahma Bull. These woodgrain models were mounted on wooden bases and the lamps sported rustic burlap shades.A few non-woodgrain models graced these lamps, too, like the grey Elephant and Donkey and the Bay Rearing Stallion.

A typical Dunning Lamp

Less common, however, are the Western Horse lamps. Like the Western Horse clocks, they date to the 1950s, the earliest part of Breyer's model horse history. The Western Horse lamps, as with the clocks, have turned up in both alabaster and palomino. In my experience, the alabasters usually come on black-painted metal bases while the palominos are typically seen on brown-painted bases. A few green-painted bases have been found, too. That said, they are fairly scarce, and I've seen only a handful of these neat old lamps.

An alabaster Western Horse on a black base 
(The shade is 1950s vintage but not original to the piece.)

A palomino Western Horse on a brown base 
(I believe this shade is original to the piece
as I have seen more just like it with other
scroll base lamps.)

My mom, sister, and I recently acquired the palomino lamp pictured above, and we were pleased to discover a manufacturer's sticker on the bottom of the base. As far as I know, no other examples are known with any sort of identifying marks (although if you happen to have one, I'd love to know!), so we were pretty excited to finally have a maker's name to add to our provenance files.

I have not yet been able to track down much information about the Marks Manufacturing Company, but as I work in a top-notch research library, that of my alma mater, the University of Chicago, I have access to some handy sources like a 1956 Chicago phone book. I was able to track down the address of Marks, and  like the Mastercrafter Clock Company, it was a near neighbor of the Breyer factory. All three were located just west of downtown Chicago. Mastercrafters was about one mile due east of Breyer, and Marks was a bit northeast, about 2 miles away.

The use of the zone number (22) rather than a zip code most likely dates this piece to the 1950s (or possibly the very early 1960s at the latest). Based on pictures I've found of other (non-horse) Marks made lamps, the company appears to have been in business as early as the 1930s if not earlier. I have not yet been able to determine if it was related to the well-known Clayton Mark and Company (of Evanston, IL) and Mark (no "s") Manufacturing Company of Indiana. The latter two companies specialized in steel manufacturing of pipes and well equipment and were founded by Clayton Mark (of Marktown fame) and his sons. It's not a huge stretch to think that someone in the family might have opted for the decorative side of metal work, but it could also be a complete coincidence.

I plan to do more digging to track down the history of Marks. I'm very curious to know how long the company was in business after their collaboration with Breyer and whether or not it was related to one of Clayton Mark's companies. I'll be sure to blog about anything I find!

Next time, some news on those chinas we all Love!


  1. I have the Palomino with the original base and shade - it's been in my family many years!

  2. i have a worklight by marks manufacturing co. of chicago. painted olive drab, on a gooseneck, has a metal shade. the base is a round flange with two screw holes, meant to attach to something else. the unusual thing about it is the marks 180 degrees around the flange.

  3. i have a worklight by marks manufacturing co. of chicago. painted olive drab, on a gooseneck, has a metal shade. the base is a round flange with two screw holes, meant to attach to something else. the unusual thing about it is the marks 180 degrees around the flange.

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  5. I have the wood-grain running mare and foal lamp and its been in my family for 30 to 40 years. Bought it at a second hand store. Still works and has the original shade I do believe.

  6. I recently acquired a white/alabaster Western Horse Lamp with the same shade as the palomino one pictured above. I'm VERY excited to have this piece in my collection--one of my earliest Breyer pieces! And doubly excited to see a write-up, as discovered by my pal, Teresa Rogers, within your blog! My piece has no marks or stickers but so happy to have a maker now, via your posting here! Thank you for the research you do! :)

  7. I had one I've never seen since. Back around 1968 or 69, I had a breyer wood grain running foal wall lamp. The base was oak, the post came out, curved down and then up and ran thru the center of the foal continuing up to the burlap shade. I was living near Syracuse at that time.

  8. Great info! I have the exact Palomino one. The dates seem to be correct. I inherited mine from my grandma. I also have the original shade with the scroll base (it's damaged)
    These are the only ones I've ever seen!