The porcelain light socket, once the hallmark of the New York City tenement apartment, has come to represent the essence of timeless and affordable utility design. Its shape is taken directly from two sources: the neck of an oil lamp (the kind that uses a key to control the flame) and the base of a candleholder. This “keyless lampholder” was created in 1910 to accommodate the Edison lightbulb, which was gaining popularity in the home. Manufactured by Russian immigrant Isidor Leviton in his factory on the Bowery, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the porcelain socket soon marched uptown and into public buildings, offices, and skyscrapers. Today this industrial classic is still made by the same company in New York. In recent years, as architects and designers have used the light prominently on ceilings and walls in every sort of room, other notable versions have cropped up, but they all stay true to the original.
Five to Buy
Object Lessons columnist Megan Wilson is the owner of Ancient Industries and curator of the Remodelista 100, a collection of essential everyday objects presented in the Remodelista book. Watch for her column every Tuesday, and have a look at her past lessons on iconic designs, including Noguchi’s Iconic Rice Paper Lights and the Hurricane Lantern. We featured her Connecticut shop in our post Purveyor of the Practical and the Timeless.
N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on September 16, 2014.