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The History of Banker’s Lamps

The first banker’s lamp was created by a New York City engineer named Harrison D. McFaddin in 1909. He called it the Emeralite and manufactured his patented design through his father’s housewares company, H.G. McFaddin & Co. (Other companies followed suit and produced their own versions of the banker’s lamp, such as the “Greenalite,” “Verdelite,” and “Amronlite.”) Notably, the now-iconic green glass shades on the Emeralites were produced in a factory in Moravia (present-day Czech Republic). Why green? The rounded green shades were advertised as being easy on the eyes, although modern specialists deny the efficacy of this claim. However, the sales pitch was effective and banks, libraries, and other institutions adopted the banker’s lamps. In its heyday, Emeralite supplied a variety of notable clients, including Bell Telephone Co., General Motors, Harvard University, and F. W. Woolworth & Co. While the original Emeralite company is long gone, the design legacy of the green-shaded banker’s lamp lives on. It’s frequently included on TV show sets, incorporated into interior design schemes, and still appears in many public institutions, such as the famously well-appointed Bates Hall in the Boston Public Library.

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