Childhood memory led lawyer to collecting Aladdin lamps

B-76 Tall Lincoln Drape cobalt crystal Aladdin lamp with complete & working model B burner and 'Aladdin' chimney. Image courtesy of Archive and Tom Harris Auction Center.

B-76 Tall Lincoln Drape cobalt crystal Aladdin lamp with complete & working model B burner and ‘Aladdin’ chimney. Image courtesy of Archive and Tom Harris Auction Center.

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) – Bill Lohmeyer drove and drove and drove some more to a 14-hour auction of old lamps in Illinois.

Then he drove and drove and drove some more back to New Albany, without the lamp he most wanted.

Lohmeyer bowed finally from the bidding at $1,300, twice the limit he had promised himself. Determined to take the rare prize, the winner went $25 higher. Such is love, war and collecting.

“And that’s not the first time that’s happened,” Lohmeyer told the News and Tribune. “(But) I haven’t let many things get by me.”

His home reflects just that. Its stand-alone custom beauty is enhanced by Lohmeyer’s spectacular collection of classic Aladdin kerosene lamps. Lohmeyer has been at it 30 years, with 300 or so lamps.

None is new, of course, and many are like the one on which his family – the home of which had no electricity – relied when Lohmeyer was a boy in Harrison County.

“We only had one and there was a reason,” he said. “It is the most expensive one you could buy. It also produced the most light. We carried it around from room to room. It was the only kerosene lamp you really could read by.”

C. William “Bill” Lohmeyer is best known as a lawyer who, at 80, now practices only occasionally to fill in for his son Steve. With one of the community’s best voices, Bill Lohmeyer still sings mostly at his church, Trinity United Methodist.

Lohmeyer’s devotion to glass-and-brass kerosene lamps reflects a personal fascination, a love of history. Why Aladdin kerosene lamps? Why not. Lohmeyer helped establish and he remains a leader of a national Aladdin lamp collectors’ group. Its members have become Lohmeyer’s dear friends, if not also occasional rivals.

“I call it my magnificent obsession,” Lohmeyer said of lamp collecting.

That’s the hook with seriously collecting anything – the constant challenge, an insatiable itch to find what else might be out there. The point is not to be noticed or admired but to persevere, to gladly give up yet another weekend to try to fill a void in the collection.

“If I need to go to Iowa, I’ll go to Iowa,” Lohmeyer said. “I’ve done that a couple of times.”

Jo Lohmeyer, Bill’s wife, said visitors sometime suggest they’ve entered a museum.

“But somehow it’s still comfortable,” she said of their home and its lamps in almost every direction. “It’s our thing.”

Jo Lohmeyer’s role in this lamp story is more than about tolerance and patience. Before she was Bill Lohmeyer’s wife, she was his secretary. As the latter, she recommended an Aladdin kerosene lamp for his office desk.

Recalling his childhood, he readily said yes and soon after, he bought another.

“It was more a way of decorating than anything else,” he said. “That got me started.”

Lohmeyer set his sights on a sample of each Aladdin model. Check. He then wanted one in every possible color. Check. He picked up a few electric Aladdins. He checks out antique malls but has settled on the Internet as a steady source. However obsessive, the discipline Lohmeyer relied on that day in Illinois serves him well.

“I won’t say money’s no object,” he said. “Obviously it is.”

Lohmeyer also landed one of every floor model, then sold them all.

“Space was a problem,” he said.

The Lohmeyer home is not like Freedom Hall, after all. Besides, Lohmeyer also collects clocks and music boxes and his wife collects Hummels.

The gaps in Bill Lohmeyer’s collection are few. He sells pretty much only what he’s replaced with lamps in better shape. He and other collectors talk of opening a museum, but nothing is close to firm. The lamps come in handy – for heat as well as for light – when the power goes out. Otherwise, what is to become of all this? Seems a question for another day.

“I look at it wistfully,” Lohmeyer said. “Whatever money I’ve spent has been for me.”


Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.,

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