COLUMBIA — Nearly 450 Aladdin lamp collectors from as far away as Australia will be in Columbia through Saturday for the National Association of Aladdin Lamp Collectors 38th Gathering — but it’s not about getting three wishes.
“Younger people associate it with Disney,” Bill Miller said, referring to “Aladdin,” the 1992 Disney movie. “It has nothing to do with Disney.”
The gathering also includes an International Lamp Show and Sale, open to the publicSaturday.
When: Aug. 7, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Holiday Inn Executive Center, 2200 I-70 Drive Southwest
Admission: $5 per person
For more information call Floyd and Bonnie Durk at 573-696-3619, or go to aladdincollectors.org.
Miller, of Wilburton, Okla., has collected Aladdin lamps since 1968.
Aladdin lamps are a brand of kerosene mantle lamps. The lamps emit a brighter light than traditional wick lamps, which work much like a candle.
“They were like the Cadillac of their time because they burned less fuel for more light," Bonnie Durk said.
Bonnie Durk and her husband, Floyd, are this year’s General Knights, the title assigned to the people who organize the convention. Members of the National Association of Aladdin Lamp Collectors are referred to as Aladdin Knights of the Mystic Light.
Bonnie Durk said the Knights are aware of the genie lamp misconception associated with Aladdin-brand lamps. The Knights play with the false impression tongue-in-cheek style at the Gathering’s banquet. This year, the Durks’ granddaughter will dress up as a genie and draw door prizes.
Even though Aladdin lamps have nothing to do with genies, the name of the lamps is rooted in Middle Eastern and South Asian folklore.
According to “A Brief History of Aladdin Lamps” by J.W. Courter, the founder of the company that produces Aladdin lamps, Victor S. Johnson repeatedly read “Arabian Nights” by an open flame coal oil lamp as a child. As an adult, when he discovered the kerosene mantle lamp, he named it “Aladdin” because of the “magical intensity” of its light.
Aladdin lamps come in a seemingly endless variety of shapes, sizes and materials. In honor of this year’s theme, “The World Comes to Columbia, Mo.,” a display room is set up with rare Aladdin lamps from Australia, England and New Zealand. The room’s tables are lined with lamp bases, some in brilliant green and blue hues, others in the pastels popular in the 1950s.
Bases are made from a variety of materials, including wood, glass and metal. Bernie Holmes, who has come to the convention for the past 24 years, said bases were made with whatever was available at the time. Holmes runs T.W. Sands & Co. in Melbourne, Australia, a lamp house specializing in kerosene lighting.
The gathering isn’t just about kerosene Aladdin lamps. Some collections also include electric Aladdin lamps. Others, such as Lela Sago’s, include Victorian, whale oil and Sinumbra lamps — all types of antique lighting that came before the Aladdin lamps.
From Thursday to Saturday, the collectors turn the Holiday Inn’s cookie-cutter rooms into antique treasure troves. Many registrants keep their doors open and bring lamps and parts to sell in their rooms during the gathering.
One of Sago’s hotel beds overflows with intricately cut, polished brass parts for early Victorian library lamps. One piece stands out in particular — it’s set with orange, green, purple and red jewels.
Sago and her husband, Darrell, of Festus, have been collecting for about 38 years. They began while they while they were building a log house in Montauk.
“The plans called for a hanging lamp above the table,” she said. “We started looking then and haven’t stopped since.”
Bob Daniels and his wife, Laura, of Princeville, Ill., originally collected finger lamps. Once Bob purchased their first Aladdin lamp, their passion for collecting exploded.
“It became something like a feeding frenzy,” he said.
Bob Daniels estimates the couple owns between 400 and 500 lamps. They’re almost all on display in their home.
They plug in electric lamps, but they also use the kerosene lamps. Bob Daniels said they use about 40 gallons of fuel each year. When the power goes out, they use the kerosene lamps for light and heat.
The Daniels said the convention is more than a group of people with a shared passion — it’s about friendship.
Some of their collector friends are from the United States, but others are from Australia and Canada.
He said they call their closest friends about once a week. Bob Daniels said despite the friends’ shared love of lamps, their conversations are usually about their families and what’s happening in their lives.
“Unless you have a good find, then you have to call and brag about it,” he said as he gestured to an art deco style lamp with a $1,900 price tag for sale in his room.
“It’s not any different than car collecting or whatever you collect,” he said. “It eventually comes down to friends.”