It all started in 1997 when I needed a part for my grandfather’s L427. The lantern had passed from my grandfather to my father. My father had then given me the lantern when I started camping in 1960 with my own family. I had used it for 35 years and it had traveled across the country in whatever camper I had at the time. It was always the brightest lantern in the campground. But time had come and I needed a new generator. So, I wrote to the Coleman Company to find out if I could get a replacement part. I received a letter in return that stated, no, they did not have those anymore. But the Coleman Company included information about how I could get obsolete parts from Leacock Coleman in Pennsylvania. They also sent a list of parts they did have and a long list of model numbers. Hum, I thought look at all the other models they have made. That did it right there. Also included was a brochure on the International Coleman Collectors Club. They had a newsletter and did annual conventions. This sounded interesting, so I just mailed it in and joined the ICCC.
I began hunting local flea markets, swap meets and antique stores for all these models that Coleman made. If it said Coleman on it I pretty much drug it home. I would also find things that were not Coleman and I began to learn about the competitors. The making of light from gasoline had a much wider history than I had imagined. As I found more things I had more questions. With the availability of email addresses for the club I was able to contact other members and get great help. If someone did not know then they referred me on to another member. There were many contacts made simply by email before I ever met anyone in person. Everyone I asked was more than willing to help out and share little secrets that made a project come out much better. The more I learned the more fun it became to restore another lantern or lamp that I found.
Well, I had been doing this about three years and a newsletter came that the next convention would be in Wichita, KS and include a tour of the Coleman factory. Now this sounded really interesting, plus all the people I had been in contact with were going to attend and I could meet them all. So, I attended my first convention in Wichita in 2000. Now I saw for myself all these things that Coleman made at the convention. I met Herb Ebendorf and bought his book. I met people I had been in contact with and more. Many of the members I met for the first time at that convention have become great friends. That convention hooked me. I anxiously await the next one each year and can’t wait to go. It has become as much about seeing the people each year as sharing the hobby.
The collection has expanded over the last 14 years and now occupies what is known as “the shop”. A 10’ x 20’ shed building that houses both display and a work area. Unfortunately, with the success in finding lamps and lanterns it has become quite full. I primarily collect Coleman, but those competing brands have found a home there also. I focus on lamps and lanterns, with only a few stoves and an iron mixed in. I enjoy finding lamps and matching shades as they appeared in the catalog.
Now that I am retired I divide my time between Montana in the summer and Southern California in the winter. It has become the most enjoyable hobby that travels with me. Where ever I travel it gives me something hunt for and the possibly of making a great find. It is rewarding to find an old lantern that has not run for many years, spend a few minutes with it and it will fire right up. Most need very little work to come to life again, while others need a bit more time and effort. Either way they are enjoyable projects. Two of the greatest joys has been finding and burning both a Model P chandelier (M burners) and a Model R Reading lamp. Old torch light burners can be challenge and when they light it is the greatest sense of satisfaction. I now mainly look for the oldest models I can find.
My grandfather’s lantern is dated April 1927 and still runs faithfully. Yet, it is now polished and retired to the display shelf. Newer models have replaced it for regular camping use. It leads the lantern line and is still the most prized lantern in the whole collection.