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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Moss Lamps - Extraordinary Lamps Made by Crazy, Fun People Who Knew How to PARTY!

Moss lamp #1 - I realized just a few days ago, that 
the figurine on this lamp is a male. He's called "Mr. Mambo"!

This is my other lamp. While the male figure is referred 
to as "Mr. Mambo", the female figurine is simply referred 
to as "Mambo". 

I found the lamps pictured above at an antique store near my home and I bought them for myself for my birthday last year. I had to have them, and I'm SO glad I bought them. They make me very happy every time I look at them, especially at night when I turn the top and base lights on and switch on the spinning figurines!  These lamps are more than a super fun party with a lampshade though; the people and company that made them have a great story!  

I learned, from a vintage/kitsch aficionado friend who is also a native of San Francisco, that my lamps are Moss lamps and were manufactured in San Francisco by Moss Manufacturing Company on Mission Street in the '40s and '50s.  I had seen similar lamps before, even some of the floor lamps with bases that light up, I just didn’t know anything about them. Since my interest was peaked, I searched online and found amazing photos of various Moss lamps.  Spun glass shades, spinning figurines, planters,  and light up lamp bases, are just some of the features that these amazing lamps have.  

Image from the Very Vintage Vegas website.

My Internet search also led me to the book, Moss Lamps, Lighting the ‘50s by Donald-Brian Johnson and Leslie Pina, and I ordered it. WHAT A GREAT BOOK! 

The very first photo after the “Acknowledgements” page has a photo of Thema Moss, Gerry Moss and the Moss Manufacturing mascot Terry the poodle (a REAL poodle) wearing glasses and a bow tie.  I love the sense of humor the Mosses had.  I think they were a little crazy…In a GOOD way.

While my Plexiglass lamps in the photos above were made in around the 1950s, according to the book, Moss Manufacturing (owned by Gerry Moss) started production of traditional metal-stemmed lamps in 1937.  At that time, they became successful in selling to furniture stores and Sears, Roebuck and Company.  However, and here's where the fun begins, by WWII when the steel supply was short, they had to come up with another unique material to use in making the lamps.  Moss designer Duke Smith started using Plexiglass. In the 1950’s Thelma Moss (wife of Gerry Moss) was recruited  by her husband (and away from her successful Mode ‘O Day chain of clothing stores) to work for his company creating lamps.  She and John Disney worked on lamp designs together. Thelma came up with many of the main ideas.  As you see by their work, they were an amazing team.

By pages 16 and 17 of the book, I already loved Thelma and Gerry Moss. Those pages are filled with photos of them; christening their YACHT, The Thelma IV, having cocktails with family and friends on their yacht, and posing next to BARBARA EDEN on their yacht!  Sheesh.  When I first saw the photo of Barbara I thought, "Wow, look at how beautiful their daughter is."  Then I noticed the caption under the photo stating that it was Barbara Eden and my jaw dropped for the 20th time since first opening the book.

Below is a fantastic photo of Thelma Moss and a friend wearing amazing, tall party hats that rival shades of a Moss lamp, while acting like it’s just another day at an elegant gala.  OH. MY. GAWD. Of course she co-created Moss lamps.  Look at how fabulous she is and how much fun she is having.  I would love to know what they were talking about when this picture was taken.  

Thelma Moss (on the right) and friend. 
Photo from Retro Radar article on Moss Lamps
by Donald-Brian Johnson. Check it out here.
This photo is also featured in the book
Moss Lamps Lighting the ‘50s.

The rest of the  book is filled with a few more Moss personal photos, but mostly, it's page after page of amazing lamps and the rest of the Moss Manufacturing story. 

Now that I know the history behind my lamps, I think they're even more amazing. I want more of them, however, my house is small, and we only have room for so much vintage goodness. Looking at photos will have to suffice…For NOW. 

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. 


  1. Love it!! Thank you for sharing your Vintage Obsessions, Linda. So well-written and interesting tales!

    1. GREAT story, ♥ it... & of course, the company is from SF!!

  2. Love Those Lamps Linda....Frankin' Awesome!!! Ooohhh....I think I just Droooled on myself.....!!!

  3. You are so funny, Lora!!! I love them too!! I wish I had room for more. They are so fun.

  4. Love this article! You are very helpful and informative- great reference material. I'm about to list my Moss for sale. My shade is immaculate and I'm very proud to have one in such great shape. Will post some pictures when I get it unpacked.

  5. Hi Andrew! Thank you for the feedback. I'm so glad that you enjoyed my blog post. Gosh - I wish I could buy your lamp and I don't even know what it looks like. I'm sure it's fabulous. I would love, love, love to see photos of it! : )

  6. Love this! I have a Moss lamp with a wonderful ceramic figurine, but it is missing its pagoda lampshade. Do you have any suggestions on who might make one, or where I could find one?