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He Converts Antique Gas Lanterns To Electric
Tim Swartz of Volga, S.D., has made a name for himself by restoring and retrofitting antique gas lanterns. His interest in the equipment started at an early age. “Growing up, my family vacationed at our cottage in Ontario, Canada,” says Swartz. “We lit the cottage each night with Coleman lanterns, as there was no electricity. I remember falling asleep listening to the hiss of the burning lanterns.”
Six years ago, Swartz was gifted a 1937 American Gas Machine lantern by his father-in-law, a tool that had accompanied the family through many camping trips in Northern Minnesota. “I was fascinated as I was unaware that companies other than Coleman made lanterns,” he says. “Thus began my interest in gas lantern history.”
 Swartz learned most of what he knows today from the Coleman Collector’s Forum website. “Without the knowledge and expertise of these gentlemen, I’d have never been able to return these old lanterns to operating condition,” he says. To date, Swartz owns approximately thirty lanterns dating from 1916 thru 1970. Each operates as originally designed, using pressurized white gas. 
Swartz also enjoys retrofitting gas lanterns to give them new life with electric power. This requires him to completely disassemble the lantern and de-rust any damaged steel parts in a mild solution of molasses and water. Brass components are cleaned and polished, and Swartz drills holes into the tank to feed wires throughout so he can reconfigure it to electric. He attaches E12 sockets for lightbulbs and powers them with a standard cord and plug.
“I prefer not to electrify lanterns older than 1965, and I prefer those made in the 1970’s and early 80’s,” explains Swartz. “Coleman made millions of lanterns during this time, and they are not as collectible as earlier models.”
Today, Swartz sells lanterns at local craft shows and takes custom orders. While he’s partial to rebranding the lanterns as classic tractors with original colors and retro decals, he’s open to special requests. Pricing is around $175 per custom lantern.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Tim Swartz (ph 303-918-0257).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #3