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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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White Flame Light

White Flame Light

GRHC - November 11th, 2013

A simple attempt to adjust his mother's oil lamp led to a small shoestring business which grew into a company with international agents.


One night Victor Blandford’s mother stated that either her eyesight was getting dim or the light from the oil lamp was inadequate. She found it difficult to read by the yellow light. Victor, who was 16 and attending McLaughlin’s Business College at the time, took a look at the wick. He trimmed it, but no difference. He tinkered with it. Then he punched holes in the base of the burner and added small brads on the rim to raise the chimney just enough to admit air. Finally, he cut, by hand, a mantle of steel and inserted it around the wick. The mantle vaporized the oil by adding heat and mixing oxygen with the oil to give out a white light.

His mother was utterly pleased with the result and her neighbors were quite envious. Victor made a few more mantles, still using the old Queen Anne base. Business was on a shoestring, but he was in business and worked on it Saturdays and weekends.

Victor carried a black case containing his light and an old Queen Anne burner to demonstrate the difference to farmers in the area. Soon he commissioned agents in many places—burners were now manufactured from dies in Connecticut, shipped in carload lots to Grand Rapids where they were assembled, and sent to all part of the United States, Canada, and foreign countries. Solving his mother’s problem resulted in Victor’s thriving business.


Full Details

TitleWhite Flame Light
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; lamp; Victor Blandford
Pubdate StringNovember 11th, 2013

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