The Art of Industrial
Account Icon Account
Cart Icon Cart

Origin Story: O.C. White Lighting

Original O.C. White Articulating Two-Arm Floor Lamp
Original O.C. White Articulating Two-Arm Floor Lamp
In the late 19th century, noting the functional inefficiencies of medical lighting, Dr. Otis C. White, a dental surgeon from Middlesex County, Massachusetts, designed his very-own light to help improve his visibility in the examining and operating rooms. The light he created was a more-versatile and more-effective, adjustable floor lamp, unlike anything else available then. Today, his light remains a shining example of how innovative and industrious many of the early Americans were. Dr. Otis founded the O.C. White Co. in Worcester, Massachusetts, which was an early “hub of industry” here in the US, before the turn of the century. Upon founding his company, he knew that two driving principles were going to be key: 1. Unparalleled Quality & 2. Unrivaled Craftsmanship (these were vital to “the exacting nature” of their work). Thanks to this philosophy and his drive, these qualities are still very evident, even today in the lasting, beautiful, simplicity & functionality of the O.C. White design. In 1894, the company was producing gas light fixtures, however less than a decade later, he turned his attention to the field of electric-lighting,. This shift helped to make him one the original pioneers of industry, and one of the largest in the field of adjustable task lamps and machine lighting fixtures. His original vision was to design specialty lighting for use in physician offices and hospital rooms, however before long that vision ballooned and took the company into variety of other areas as well (in areas, where “attention-to-detail” was critical, like research laboratories, metrology (the jewelry profession) and the textile industry (the stitching trade)… all areas where focused, more-functional, adjustable, electric-lighting could be of help. During World War I, his company produced lights with specialized arms, the largest quantities were used by the U.S. Signal Corps to hold resonator signaling devices. During World War II, O.C. White lights were extensively used as Chart lights on board ships, both in the US Navy and the Merchant Marines. Like many companies of the day, the US’s manufacturing efforts were shifted to 100% War production (many of the company’s products were used in ways that would help our soldiers, improve our war facilities, even special units were designed to be parachuted into field operations to aid the war effort). Which means their products had to work-well, meaning they had to work “as needed” in very different, often quite challenging environments, they had to be durable and they had to last. Perhaps, these are just some of the reasons why the company was cited by the U.S. government for its part in “helping to produce victory over the enemy” during WWI & WWII. Throughout the postwar era, O.C. White then cornered the market for OEM machine lighting for a host of major American machine builders including companies like New Britain Machine Company (right here in Connecticut), Cincinnati Milling Machine Company, and Bryant Chucking Grinder Company. These vintage, articulating / telescoping, utility-lights can be seen in all kinds of environments today, they are very common in both commercial and residential designs because of the functionality and design. O.C. White built a reputation on quality and performance (or form and function, which to us at Get Back, is the basis for great-design). Design with lasting power, which makes this particular light, (the O.C. White double arm floor lamp), a truly iconic, vintage industrial piece, one of the best ever made anywhere). There have been several other knock-off companies, that (many other later) fixtures were created to replicate, to mimic the beauty of the original O. C. White lights. But few if any, were or are, ever able to copy the same level of character or imbue its great heritage. Get Back has a fairly large offering of highly sought-after rarities (especially when it comes to lighting, due in large part to our own history and our location). Our proximity to many of the early “hubs of industry”, right here in the “heart of the Industrial-Revolution”, in New England has been a huge benefit. Some of the other iconic examples of vintage industrial lighting can be found in luxury antique shops, however this original double-arm O.C. White floor lamp (herein this post) is among the rarest, and it is currently available here (and only through Get Back and our affiliate sites). Below is one of the original O.C. White print advertisements for this adjustable, electric floor lamp, dating back to 1898-1906.

If you would like to learn more about this lamp, please click HERE (you’ll see more details and the exact specs for this particular beauty, a rarity).