Historical information

Francis Powell (1861-) and Francis Hanmer (1858-1925) founded Powell and Hanmer Ltd in the Summer of 1885 for the manufacturer of bike and carriage lamps. Their first advertisements began to appear in November of 1885.
In 1890 they lodged a Patent for “velocipede” lamps to be used by lightweight wheeled vehicles propelled by a rider, such as a bike, tricycle and railroad handcar. In April of 1913, they were selling headlamps for cars and in 1914 built their second factory manufacturing dynamo lighting sets in Rocky Lane Birmingham, also for the production of dynamos for motor cars. Then in 1929 Powell and Hanmer Ltd, was acquired by the Lucas company which was at that time the main competitor for the manufacture of non-electrical equipment for cycles and motorcycles.
When a director of Powell and Hanmer joined the board of Austin motor cars, Lucas feared that Austins might encourage Powell and Hanmer to start to produce electrical equipment for supply to the company and as a result this association might affect Lucas's business with other large vehicle manufacturers. As a result, Lucas made an offer to Powell & Hanmer and purchased the business for £500,000. 


Carbide lighting was used in rural and urban areas of Australia which were not served by electrification. Its use began shortly after 1900 in many countries and continued past the 1950s. Calcium carbide pellets were placed in a container outside the home, with water piped to the container and allowed to drip on the pellets releasing acetylene. This gas was piped to lighting fixtures inside the house, where it was burned, creating a very bright flame. Carbide lighting was inexpensive but was prone to gas leaks and explosions.
Early models of the automobile, motorbike and bicycles used carbide lamps as headlamps. Acetylene gas, derived from carbide, enabled early automobiles to drive safely at night. Thick concave mirrors combined with magnifying lenses projected the acetylene flame light. These type of lights were used until reliable batteries and dynamos became available, and manufacturers switched to electric lights.
Acetylene lamps were also used on riverboats for night navigation. The National Museum of Australia has a lamp made in about 1910 that was used onboard the
PS Enterprise, an 1878 Australian paddle steamer, currently owned by the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. It is still operational, and one of the oldest working paddle steamers in the world, listed on the Australian Register of Historic Vehicles.

Physical description

Acetylene Carbide lamp, marine pattern burner housing and reflector missing Carbide Lamp, metal. Has plate for attaching to wall, & gimbal to allow lamp to remain vertical.

Inscriptions & markings