The Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern

The Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern was patented and manufactured by Charles H. Stonebridge in 1900 and quickly became one of the most popular camping equipment items of the day.  Several camping how-to books, published from 1900 to 1930 recommended it and the lantern can be seen in many old photographs of turn-of-the-century campers.

Stonebridge Army Lantern Ad, Field & Stream, August 1916

In World War I it was chosen as the standard issue field and Medical Corp lantern of the U. S. Army. The Canadian armed forces and the armies of European nations used it as well.  The design was so good that after the patent expired a slightly smaller, aluminum version was sold under the Campways and Top Alpine brand names for many years.

1970’s Top Alpine brand backpacking candle lantern (right) was a close copy of the Stonebridge.

This was the first item I purchased for traditional camping as I consider the Stonebridge lantern so quintessentially woodcraft.  These lanterns were sold in such large numbers that they can be found in good condition regularly on eBay or online antique sites.  Prices vary widely however.  The Stonebridge lantern was offered in galvanized steel, solid brass and aluminum.  The aluminum model was generally not recommended as the alloys of the period were too soft to hold up well.  Famous woodcraft author Stewart Edward White highly recommended the galvanized model while author Horace Kephart recommended the brass version.  Interestingly, Kephart’s own surviving lantern was made of aluminum.  The windows were made of isinglass (thin sheets of mica) and are remarkably durable.  If they become cracked you can cut out new replacements from mica sheets readily available online.

Horace Kephart’s own Stonebridge lantern.

Courtesy of the Hunter Library Special Collections and the Mountain Heritage Center, Horace Kephart: Revealing An Enigma

A few years ago, I purchased a solid brass (heavy but rustproof) replica of the Stonebridge Lantern from Lee Valley Tools of Ogdensburg, NY.  The only difference between it and the original was the shape of the vent holes at the base of the lantern.  This was most likely done so that the replica couldn’t be passed off as an original.  I purchased one as soon as they were available and love it.  I see that Garrett Wade has the same lantern in stock at this time.  As these are no longer available through Lee Valley Tools, I suspect that they are no longer being made.  This no doubt means that once the Garrett Wade stock is gone, you will not find another new one.

If you desire an authentic camping light from the woodcraft period, you simply must add a Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern to your camp kit.

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9 Responses to “The Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern”

  1. Matt in Maine Says:

    Wow! Great blog! I really hope you keep it up. I theoretically have a blog, but if I post twice a year its a big deal.
    I have really learned a lot. Thanks for the tip on the oil lanterns.

    I found your blog while searching for info on the Stonebridge folding lantern, which I have been coveting for years, then got one for Christmas from my dad. It is much cooler in real life than it looks on the web, and it looks pretty dang cool on the web.

    I really enjoy your blog posts so far. I have made a similar evolution. Here is a post that kind of lays out where I am coming from:

    Thanks for the book ideas, (the Wescott book looks great) and if you want some topics to write about, axes are always good for a forum flame war. I have a Snow and Neally cruiser, a Granfors Bruks forest ax and a Wetterlings ax, all about the same size and configuration. I find that taking 3 is too heavy, so I usually wind up taking the S&N, just because it has a more pronounced wedge shape which I think is better for splitting, plus I don’t mind wrecking it because I can always get another one, whereas the GB is expensive, and the Wetterings are hard to find.


  2. Eric Says:

    Great write up and nice history! I didn’t know there was another source and just dropped the hammer at Garrett Wade. I want to make sure I get one before they’re gone.

  3. tina Says:

    I have a stonebridge folding lantern and its pat”d Nov.20 1908 to June 9, 1908 is it the original folding lantern

  4. David Mashburn Says:

    My first Stonebridge lantern(aluminum) came from Herter’s in the 1950’s
    No doubt some people will remember the infamous Herter’s catalog. My
    first pair of boots and knife came from Herter’s. Carried the Lantern for
    years then lost it. Have ordered the brass one from Garret Wade and look
    forward to getting it. I know there are a lot of sophisticated lights these
    days but for me a candle lantern is the most practical. It has no moving
    parts and it just works. DMashburn

  5. David Mashburn Says:

    I purchased my first Stonebridge lantern(aluminum) in the 1950’s from a Herter’s
    catalog. Some years ago it dissapeared. Recently, I bought the brass model
    from Garrett Wade Co. It is a very high quality representation and I believe it will
    see me on out. Being a student of primitive skills, I am always on the lookout
    for simple basic things to utilize in camping.

  6. Ken S Says:

    Is that a direct fit beeswax candle in the lantern? If so could you please tell me where you purchased them?


  7. Brent Payne Says:

    NO, the candles had to be cut down to fit and were a bit too slender to be gripped by the wires. However, I’ve since discovered UCO brand beeswax candles are now available and I’m sure will work MUCH better! I’ve used their standard candles in the past and they are shorter and much thicker
    than what I could find in beeswax candles in the past. Good Luck!

  8. Ken S Says:

    Thanks for the reply! Ironically that’s what I use too, just carve the base to fit! I was thinking if there was one that was a direct fit that would be easier, but it’s not that difficult to carve the base. I also save the scrap beeswax for something else later on.

  9. David Mashburn Says:

    Always glad to talk to people who use stuff from bygone days. Where I live,
    Western NC, few “outdoor folks” have a clue what flint and steel or Chaga or
    amadou is, sad world.

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