Victor Samuel Johnson was born February 6, 1882, five miles south of Minden, Nebraska, where he studied his school lessons by the flame of a common kerosene lamp. He formed the Western Lighting Company in 1907 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On February 27th, 1908 he incorporated The Mantle Lamp Company of America. At that time Johnson estimated there were about 65 companies distributing kerosene mantle lamps in the USA and only 9 or 10 manufacturers world-wide.
The Aladdin lamp became a reality when Johnson acquired improved center-draft burners patented by Charles E. Wirth. Early in 1909 Johnson introduced the Aladdin lamp. He derived the name from the famous story, Aladdin; or The Wonderful Lamp where a magician offered new lamps for old.
The initial sales of the Aladdin were beyond all expectations. It was so much more efficient than other mantle lamps that it quickly made other kerosene lamps obsolete. Soon the Aladdin could be found throughout the United States and Canada, and ultimately it made its way around the world.
In 1926, The Mantle Lamp Company acquired the Lippincott Glass Company land and buildings on the outskirts of Alexandria, Indiana. A new, large, modern factory was built on the thirteen-acre site which was later incorporated as a village with the name Aladdin. With just 22 residents, Aladdin was the smallest town in Indiana in 1928.
As the 1930s approached, an estimated six million farm homes depended on kerosene or gas for lighting. Aladdin now manufactured its own glass chimneys, shades and lamp bases. The company soon followed by making their own mantles, wicks and fabricating metal lamp bases in Alexandria.
During the early 1940s, as the nation’s war effort intensified, the manufacture of electric lamps was temporarily discontinued in 1943. The company also developed several items essential in the war: a midget foxhole stove and a pressure lantern both of which burned leaded or white gasoline; a barometric bomb detonation fuse; permeability tuning for radios; and precision parts for military radio equipment.
In 1949, The Mantle Lamp Company of America merged with its subsidiary (Aladdin Industries, Inc.) taking the latter name as being more representative of its diverse products. In the same year, the vacuum-ware operations were moved from Alexandria to Nashville, Tennessee. Aladdin’s Hopalong Cassidy lunch box changed the way children carried their lunch to school for the next 20 years.
The Alexandria plant was closed June 30, 1952. At that time all molds for the glass kerosene and electric lamps were sold as scrap and destroyed. The lamp manufacturing operations, by now greatly reduced, were moved from Alexandria to Nashville. Domestic sales of kerosene lamps declined significantly during the ensuing years. The production ofAladdin electric lamps ceased in 1956.
Today the principal items manufactured by Aladdin Industries LLC are glass and stainless steel vacuum bottles; Stanley bottles and mugs; workmen’s lunch boxes; several insulated beverageware items; flashlight products; and related outdoor hunting accessories.