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eBay Tuesday: Ocean Beach Oil Lamp

Souvenir of park on Long Island Sound one of a number of pieces of memorabilia from the site

If you're looking for one item that symbolizes New London, you can probably make a pretty good argument for the oil lamp. The "Whaling City" still retains a symbolic tie to its past as a prominent whaling port, and a good portion of that whale oil likely went toward lamps. For a long time, oil lamps were even a prominent part in keeping these whalers safe; both the New London Harbor Light and Ledge Light initially had them as their beacons.

But even if it doesn't have a date, it's probably safe to say that this week's auction item comes to us from a later time, when electricity reigned supreme, the whaling industry was a memory, and lamps were fueled by kerosene. And, as the decorative pictures at the bottom show, this was meant more as a way to remind people of the good time they had at than a lifesaving light in the fog. The fact that the whale is smiling instead of swimming for his life is another good indicator.

The lamp is offered by moesandpamsthings, a pair of antiques collectors in Belchertown, Mass. whose odd assortment of items also includes a ceramic Virgin Mary and some forklift components. They unfortunately didn't have much additional information on the lamp's history, aside from the fact that it was likely acquired at an estate sale by the original owner.

It's certainly a unique item, given that just about every other Ocean Beach item on eBay come is a postcard, most portraying the site as the cottage resort it was in the pre-Hurricane of 1938 days. These show a lively place with such amenities as an enormous ballroom, bathhouses, and duck pond. When the hurricane devastated this area, it was a blessing in disguise for the everyday resident. A multimillion dollar effort by the city to acquire and restore the beach met with some opposition, of course, but given that opponents had to resort to the use of tombstone names on petitions against the project it seemed the tide was in favor of the effort. In the summer of 1940, a grand opening officially brought the new attraction to the city's southern shore. Today, Ocean Beach remains one of the more popular sites in New London, even if the souvenir trade seems to have died down.

The lamp has a wooden handle, is about eight and a half inches tall, and includes a working wick. The asking price for a starting bid is $14.99, and the auction ends at approximately 11:20 a.m. on Thursday.

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