Bowl Shade Beauties 1933–1955

Bead-chain and center-post fixtures, named for the way their shades affix, may look so familiar, you might assume they’ve always been around. Not so. Unless your house was built after about 1935, these fixtures are newcomers that displaced older lights long out of style. As they became popular, these beauties were usually used in bedrooms thanks to their low profiles. Now, they warrant a more public spot where you can admire the lovely soft tints and decorative designs of their bowl shades.

This collection of fixtures from 1933 to 1935 shows early bead-chain and center-post forms, as manufacturers experimented with ways to make close-to-the-ceiling lights that would illuminate a whole room with just one or two bulbs. (Rejuvenation archives)

By 1936, the new concept of suspending a shade from a series of three small bead chains inserted through holes in the glass (or metal) began to spread widely. These fixtures were aimed squarely at the bedroom market, as this selection from a Moe Brothers catalog shows. (Rejuvenation archives)

Sears is always a great barometer of style trends – rarely early on a fad, but also rarely too late. While its 1936 Lightmaster catalog featured no real bead-chain or center-post fixtures, its 1937 selection above did – including bead-chain shades hung on porcelain bases at the lower right. (Rejuvenation archives)

Shade & Novelty Co. of Jeannette, Pennsylvania made a name for itself with a broad line of classic bead-chain and center-post shades (these are from around 1938) that were widely distributed. (Rejuvenation archives)

By the end of the 1930s, a strong demand had developed for larger and more elaborate center-post shades for use in living rooms and dining rooms, like these from Gill Glass & Fixture Co. in 1940, and Grahling Bros. in 1941. (Rejuvenation archives)

A selection of colorful bead-chains and center-posts from J.C. Virden in 1940 shows the typical use of soft tints, clear and painted glass, and both metal and metal/glass combinations on shades. (Rejuvenation archives)

Montgomery Ward certainly didn’t let Sears have all the fun – this 1941 spread captures the spirit and character of bead-chain fixtures as they were marketed for the modern bedroom, including “Wards [sic] Most Popular Bedroom Design.” (Rejuvenation archives)

“Why not replace those out-moded bedroom fixtures of yesteryears with your selection of one of these up-to-the-minute designs.” This spread from J.C. Virden in 1942 represents the pre-war moment when the popularity of bead-chain and center-post shades was at its peak. (Rejuvenation archives)

Following the interruption of the war, the lighting industry had to shift from military production back to the consumer market. When manufacturers like Moe Light did issue new catalogs, their offering was pretty much right where things had left off back in 1942. (Rejuvenation archives)

Porcelier’s all-porcelain fixtures of 1949 were a stylish and economical alternative during a period when manufacturers were still limited by material shortages due to the war. The designs here are typical of the tastes of the day – traditional decorative patterns and vague ornamental motifs not directly related to any specific historical style or time period. The very early thin, bent-glass shade at the upper left hints at styles to come. (Rejuvenation archives)

This 1954 spread from Sears has one foot in the past and one foot in the future, perfectly capturing the competing trends of the early Mid-Century era. The widespread adoption of thin, bent-glass shades like at the upper right eventually put an end to pressed glass shades. (Rejuvenation archives)

These pages from Moe Light in 1955 herald the triumph of the new decorated bent-glass shades – there’s not a piece of pressed glass to be seen. Moe tried to adapt bent glass to a bead-chain form at the upper right, but the writing was on the wall… and it said, “Let’s forget about pressed glass bead-chain and center-post shades for a generation or two, until your grandkids grow up and rediscover their sweet and charming style anew…”