3 Best Gas-Electric Wall Sconces

The Best Replicas of the Original Dual-Fuel Wall Fixtures

The Gaslight Era didn't suddenly end when electricity started to come on line in the 1890s. For one thing, using electrical power may have been safer and cleaner than gas, and it had the potential to be brighter, but it wasn't reliable. More importantly, gas lights had been in use for a century. They were already installed, and the infrastructure to support them was in place.

Most towns and cities, and many homeowners and business owners, supported changing to electricity for lighting, but the reliability problem had to be solved and the infrastructure, from generation to transmission and distribution, required time and investment. The power companies -- that is, the gas companies -- were on board because they could add electricity to what they already provided. The problem was how to implement the change, which most people realized would take several years, or possibly a few decades.

The unique solution to this challenge was to build the electrical lighting system in with the gas. In new buildings, including houses, wires for electricity were run alongside the pipes for the gas lights, and the fixture manufacturers designed chandeliers, pendant lights and wall sconces that could use both fuels.

The gas wall sconces that were already in use could be ornate, but were, essentially, a pipe that came out of the wall, a control valve, and a burner, usually in a glass open-top bowl. One of the advantages of electric lights was that they could project the light downward. A new hybrid gas-electric sconce, then, could have the gas light still projecting upward and add a socket for an electric light bulb under that, to shine down.

Of course, the designers had make the new fixtures safe. That meant they had to design and build them so that they could safely handle both gas and electricity. They managed to do it and, with that success, electric lighting Could be used, and evolve, until it was ready to do the job on its own.

For the 30 year period between the early 1890s and the end of World War I, most new homes, offices, factories and shops were lighted with both gas and electricity. The power companies could recover some of the cost of the electrical infrastructure each year, giving them the financing needed to improve the reliability of electrical power until the gas was no longer needed.

This was also a time of architectural change. The transition from gas through gas-electric to electric lighting took place while housing styles went from the late Victorian through the Prairie, to the Arts and Crafts, or Craftsman, periods. As a result, gas-electric wall sconces can be elegant and ornate, for the Victorian style, or plain and straightforward, with carefully detailed joinery and glass work

There are both refurbished antique fixtures and reproductions of gas-electric wall sconces available today. Some companies offer one or the other and some do both. Here are some of the best fixtures, with company links

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    Albany Gas-Electric Sconce With 2 Lights

    The Albany gas-electric wall sconce from House of Antique Hardware is classic late Victorian. It's also a classic gas-electric fixture, with one gas bowl up and one electric shade down. It even has a valve handle for the gas. It's a reproduction and all-electric, of course, but nicely done.

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    Mission Candle Style Gas-Electric Sconce

    This Mission style dual fuel wall sconce, also from House of Antique Hardware, is a bit different. It's an all electric fixture with a "candle at the top, designed to replicate a gas-fired candle that was, itself, a replication of an actual candle.

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    Vernacular Gas/ Electric Wall Sconce w/ Pressed Glass Shades

    Want an all-electric replica of a regular, everyday, workhorse gas-electric wall sconce? Here it is, from Rejuvenation Lighting. Just one gas bowl, with what looks like a gas valve under it, and one electric downlight, with a square key on/off turn switch. Absolutely period perfect.