Back to:

Paynesville Area


View of
the Lake

Notes from the Paynesville Historical Society. . .

Sunshine Lamps provided natural light

By Delores Hislop

We know about the tanning lamps of today and how we can benefit by using them to make ourselves feel good and also get a tan during the winter months. There was also a lamp used in the later 1920s which was to benefit a person's health and general well-being.

It was called the Sunshine Lamp and involved the use of carbons. A carbon is a rod or pencil-shaped item used in an arc lamp, as described in an older dictionary of 1926. The Sunshine Lamp could be used by all who had homes supplied with electricity, which produced the arcing of the carbons that gave off the light.

An ad about this type of lamp stated that the light it produced was to duplicate sunlight in all qualities. It is said to use ultraviolet rays, visible light, and heating capacity to produce the results of sunlight.

The lamp was to have been tested by the U.S. Bureau of Standards, which reported the reproduction of natural sunlight. The results were that "of all the artificial illuminants tested" it is "the nearest approach to sunlight."

The lamps were sold by medical supply houses and also by some electric light companies. Special goggles were included and carbons were sent with the lamp. The lamp evolved into different types and styles, and we now can experience what was common in some homes in earlier days by using the tanning booths.

The Paynesville Area Historical Museum has a Sunshine Lamp that was donated by Marsha Weber and a package of carbons donated by Forrest McKinley. The lamps and carbons generate a lot of curiosity as they are something unique.

(Author's Note: The Paynesville Area Historical Museum - which has regular hours from Memorial Day to Labor Day - is now closed for the year. However, arrangements to visit the museum can be made by contacting curator Bertha Zniewski at 320-243-4433.

Thank you to the Paynesville area residents for making the museum an important part of our community. You have made it possible to present many unusual items to visitors. It is only through your generosity, and for that we sincerely thank you. It is a pleasure to show others what this community has done to preserve history.

We also appreciate any monetary donations that you make to the museum. The museum depends on individual contributions to maintain operations to keep it active. Please send any contributions to: Paynesville Area Historical Society, c/o Lois Nehring, P.O. Box 35, Paynesville, MN 56362.)