Tensor Lamp

Who knew this little guy had such a interesting history?

I’ve always loved my little red lamp when my father gave it to me to put on my desk as a child. But adolescence came, as did my style, and the lamp got ditched along the way. (For many years, I was all about this old-school library lamp with a green glass shade. I suppose I thought it looked vintage, who knows?)

lamp tensor

But lately I’d been thinking about my little lamp again and asked Dad if I could get it back. He happily turned it over and I took it home to live with me.

It’s industrial look, with a thick-cut metal shade and almost too-simple switch, is the bee’s knees to me. The color ain’t too bad, either. I heart it, actually. If hearting can be a thing.

So when I was giving it a good clean up, I noticed it still had the original tag on the bottom. It was marked TENSOR made in Brooklyn, 1968. I became intrigued and did a bit of research to find a pretty cool story about the designer, Jay Monroe, an engineer/inventor of sorts.

Also related, they are pretty popular I guess, since I found bunches on eBay. I guess if you’re as interested in timeless and vintage items (you really should be!) that have a good ol’ story, happy bidding! I think they are totally worth it.

And I’m glad my little red lamp made it back at home again.


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3 Responses to “Tensor Lamp”

  1. Dragon452 Says:

    I’ve owned a Tensor compact desk lamp since 1964. When it finally broke down (about forty years later), I bought another one (used, since the original company no longer exists). The #93 bulb is still plentiful and cheap to buy…that was part of Mr. Monroe’s genius! To today’s lamp manufacturers (probably all of whom are located China): If you design a good quality 12 volt Tensor reproduction desk lamp, I think a lot of people will buy it. Thank you.

  2. Charles Peterson Says:

    The tensor lamp shown with a flat base may use a special 120V bulb. Or they may use some circuit of some kind to step down the voltage. That is not the original Jay Monroe Tensor design, which has boxy base for transformer, and uses standard 12V auto bulb.

    The original tensors are in very high demand. You cannot buy them on eBay for less than $50, and they have gone much higher. They are the most practical because of weighted base, articulated arm (which can even be folded flat) and cheap replacement bulbs. They are small, don’t flicker or make noise, and there’s no superhot halogen bulb (though tensor bulb gets pretty hot, I doubt it’s hot enough to start fire like halogen, but don’t try anyway).

    It would be nice if someone made lamps like that again. For a tiny spot of light (say, for loading discs into your DVD player), you could get a littlite. But with weighted base and all, an LED-based littlite will cost you $125 or more, and it’s not enough light for reading or fine work.

  3. Jean SmilingCoyote Says:

    My Tensor is a beige one with the small box for the base. I had no idea the auto-parking-lamp bulb was the inventor’s idea until I researched Tensor after buying a new bulb – at an auto parts store! I have a constrained computer workstation, so I bought a cheaper clip-on lamp which illuminates the entire area, easier on my eyes. So my 1982 Tensor is back in semi-reitrement, I guess waiting to be used again, till it’s old enough for “Antiques Roadshow”! I still have the original packaging. Thanks for sharing!

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