The British Optimus Nobel 2 Blowlamp & The Kings Norton Metal Company, Birmingham
Optimus Nobel 2 paraffin blowlamp,
of one pint capacity, is
clearly stamped Made in England,
London, and British Make,
so rather than being produced by Optimus in Sweden for resale in Britain,
it seems likely to have been made for Optimus, possibly under licence,
by a British manufacturer.
One clue is that an almost identical blowlamp is to be found which is associated with the Kings Norton Metal Company Ltd, Birmingham (KN). See examples below.
Although the KN Oriflamme blowlamp examples have a different filler cap to the Nobel 2, and a soldered-on "KN" badge, they are otherwise near identical to the Optimus, the significant identifying feature being the unusually configured handle, with the bottom section at a noticeably inclined angle, which is the same on both the Optimus and the KN examples.
Apart from the connection between Optimus and the Kings Norton Metal Co, further links can be established with G Kynoch & Co, Nobel Industries, ICI, and the Kitson-Empire Lighting Co.
Examples of the King's Norton Oriflamme Paraffin Blowlamp
Note the similarities to the British Optimus above, particularly the handle bracket. What is interesting here though is that unlike the impressed markings on the British Optimus, the KN Oriflamme is identified by a badge soldered to the tank, even though an impressed "KN" mark has been recorded on a shell case, and on the end of an oiler bottle for Lee-Enfield rifles.
Four examples are shown below, all pint size, and each has the same KN badge, and the same unusual "wingnut" style of filler cap. This is a good indication that this design of filler cap was intended for this particular blowlamp, and was possibly also the filler cap used on the King's Norton Stove. See below.
These examples, and a smaller half-pint model shown below, are the only blowlamp model types for which examples are in evidence. However, an extract from a trade listing (or similar) from "Hardware & Machinery, Australia" thought to be dated 1921, lists five sizes of "blow and brazing lamps" for paraffin, and a two-third pint size blowlamp for petrol. A wickless paraffin stove, of one size only, is also described. The 1921 extract, as well as an undated advert for the "wickless stove" are both reproduced below. From the descriptions on these two adverts it seems reasonably certain that the blowlamps and the stove were actually manufactured by and at the King's Norton factory.
Example of a King's Norton Oriflamme Half-Pint Paraffin Blowlamp
As with the pint examples above, the only marking appears to be on the soldered-on KN Oriflamme badge. The filler cap is different (and a possible replacement?) but it is also likely that the filler neck is smaller on the half-pint example, than it is on the pint one.
The King's Norton Wickless Stoves, and Blowlamps, in advertising
Below left, an advertisement (thought to be 1921) for a "wickless stove", clearly stating that these stoves were "Made throughout from raw materials at the Kings Norton Factory" which is a strong indication of a manufacturing facility for both stoves and blowlamps.
It is by no means certain, but the filler cap shown on the stove in the advertisement appears to be the same unusual "wingnut" style as that for the pint paraffin blowlamp examples above, suggesting, as would be expected, the common use of parts.
Below right, an extract from a trade listing (or similar) from "Hardware & Machinery, Australia" also thought to be 1921. This describes a range of four blowlamps (three paraffin, one petrol) and a paraffin brazing lamp. What is interesting is that the illustration used is exactly the same as that used in a 1916 Optimus advert, shown right (click on to enlarge) a further indication of the connection between Optimus Sweden, and the King's Norton Metal Company.
Note also the mention of Kynoch Ltd, another important connection with the King's Norton Metal Company. See below.
Example of a similar Optimus Blowlamp, made in Sweden
This relatively early Optimus paraffin blowlamp, probably a Nobel, is stamped Made in Sweden. It is marked on the shoulder as being for paraffin, in English, French and what is taken to be Russian. Note the filler cap is very similar in style to that for the British Optimus example above
AB Optimus, Alfred Nobel, and the connection with the King's Norton Metal Company, and G Kynoch & Co Ltd
Very little seems to be known about the origins of the Optimus Company, especially as Primus and Max Sievert are quite well documented. It is known that Optimus (Sweden) started trading in 1899 (after Primus and Max Sievert were well under way) and manufactured a wide range of stoves, lanterns and blowlamps, cooking and heating apparatus et al.
Optimus advert dated 1916, referred to
above, shows blowlamp models named the Swedish Nos 1 and 3 (petrol) and the
Nos 1 and 2 (paraffin).
It appears Optimus gave the name
NOBEL to their
range of paraffin blowlamps, but that at an unknown later date the name was
Why the name NOBEL? It is assumed it was to do with the Swedish inventor & philanthropist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) of the Nobel prize fame. The Nobel prize had been established in 1895. There is much related information on the internet, see for example https://www.nobelprize.org/alfred_nobel/.
Alfred Nobel was also known for the invention of dynamite, and in 1900 established Nobel's Explosives Company Industries. See http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Nobel_Industries.
In 1918, Explosives Trades Ltd was formed between 29 UK companies with explosives interests. This included Nobel's Explosives Company Industries, George Kynoch & Co, and the King's Norton Metal Co. In 1920 the name of Explosives Trades Ltd was changed to Nobel Industries.
To the left is an extract from a trade listing (or similar) from "Hardware & Machinery, Australia" and thought to be 1921. This describes the "Kynoch" wickless lantern, and the "Kynoch" silent burner wickless stove. See also the related "Hardware & Machinery, Australia" listing above.
Richard Henry Stephens produced a number of related patents. Visit Espacenet, the European Patents Office, and search for "Richard Henry Stephens". Of note is that some of these earlier patents were taken out in collaboration with the Kitson-Empire Lighting Company, of Stamford, Lincolnshire, manufacturers of blowlamps, and pressure stoves and lighting.
Of further interest is that this particular design of stove was sold under the name "Royal Daylight" by Nobel Industries Limited, so there was possibly a collaboration whereby George Kynoch & Co continued to manufacture these stoves, but that the "parent company" Nobel Industries assumed the marketing and retail side. For information on Nobel Industries Ltd "Royal Daylight" Stove, see
And for further information on the Kynoch Wickless Stove, see http://classiccampstoves.com/threads/kynoch-1921.10792/
For reference to the Kynoch Wickless Lantern, referred to on the left, see
In 1926, Nobel Industries merged with three other companies to form Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). Nobel Industries continued as the ICI Nobel division of the company. See
In 1929 the name of Kynoch Ltd was replaced by ICI Metals Ltd. The Kings Norton Metal Company closed in about 1932, when parts of the business, and many of the personnel, were transferred to ICI Metals Ltd at their Witton, Birmingham works.
For further information on George Kynoch & Co, see (for example)
Optimus (London) Limited
Very little is known, but Optimus (London) Ltd was presumably set up to represent Optimus in Britain, and probably to act as import and selling agents. Over time, more than one address has been noted, but the example to the left, 5-9 Dane Street, Holborn, London WC1, is thought to be from 1934.
Optimus manufactured oil cans amongst their considerable range of products, and one model (thought to be a 501) has been noted with the name Optimus (London) Ltd, the address, London EC(4?), and marked "Made in Sweden". See below.
The Optimus Nobel 2 paraffin blowlamp, noted above as being "Made in England", and "British Make" may well have been distributed or retailed by Optimus (London) Limited, but there is no known direct connection.
Acknowledgements, and thanks to:
Classic Camp Stoves website http://classiccampstoves.com/
Classic Pressure Lamps website http://www.classicpressurelamps.com/forum/index.php?
Grace's Guide to British Industrial History http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Main_Page
Staffordshire Home Guard website http://www.staffshomeguard.co.uk/KOtherInformationKynoch.htm
The Terrence Marsh Lantern Gallery http://tgmarsh.faculty.noctrl.edu/uklant.html
Espacenet, European Patents Office https://worldwide.espacenet.com/?locale=en_EP
Nobelprize.org, Official website of the Nobel Prize https://www.nobelprize.org/alfred_nobel/
The Oldcopper website http://www.oldcopper.org/
International Ammunition Association Inc. https://forum.cartridgecollectors.org/t/help-id-65mm-cannon-cartridge-case/11950
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12 August 2016 First published
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