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.
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.
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.