"1776" Table Lamp
The bicentennial year of 1976 saw a tremendous number of products marketed specifically to address the "bicentennial fever" that swept the nation. Among those was the "1776" Table Lamp manufactured by Texans Incorporated. Designed by Richard Gunter, the lamp was produced in a limited-edition of 1500 signed and numbered examples. It was a large, beautifully styled lamp, and for its day, relatively expensive. Certainly not the success that Texans or Gunter had hoped for, many of them went unsold and were ultimately destroyed. It was touted as a lamp that would appreciate in value over the years, a prediction that was right on target, even if the reason for its collectible status wasn't as intended. The number of surviving examples is unknown, but today these lamps are indeed something to treasure.
The photo above, showing Gunter adding his signature to one of the lamps, deserves a closer look. Taken in 1975, it is interesting to see that in the background (upper-left) appears the mallard duck and "dancing couple" TV lamps... still in production! Texans almost certainly made TV lamps longer than any other pottery, keeping them in production for over 25 years.
One of the 1776 lamps, number 26, was sent to congressman William R. Poage, who represented central Texas' 11th Congressional District. He replied with a photograph of himself taken with the lamp (left) and a letter of acknowledgement, indicating that the lamp would be displayed in the reception room for all to enjoy. Representative Poage was an avid historian of central Texas and McLennan County, having published several books on the subject. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 42 years, until his retirement in 1978. He died in 1987.
The Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom, an affiliate of Howard Payne University, promoted the 1776 lamp in two versions. One, extremely rare today, had Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom applied in 24k gold. The release of this lamp was well publicized in a Brownwood Bulletin article, referencing Gunter's Early American styling and Howard Kron's unique crackle glaze. Given everything it had going for it, I'd imagine that the weak sales came as a bit of a surprise. Its price, sixty dollars, must have played a part, but bicentennial fever sometimes became "bicentennial overload", and that could have been a factor as well. The sheer volume of Bicentennial paraphernalia that the public was subjected to became rather tiresome, and the variety of patriotic items available was bewildering. Considerable thought and effort went into the design, the resulting sales being a huge disappointment. The 1776 table lamp would be the first, and last, limited edition manufactured at Texans Incorporated.
For those lucky enough to have purchased one of these rare lamps, a Registration-Ownership Warranty was included, stating the buyers name, the date of purchase, and the unique registration number for their lamp. This information was filed at the Brown County Courthouse in Brownwood. Below are the pages of that document, which briefly describes the lamp as well as the backgrounds of its designers:
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