The Corning Museum of Glass is a dynamic institution that actively collects, educates, preserves, and shares the art, history, science, and technology of glass and glassmaking. New objects, such as this Transcontinental Railroad Lantern, are added to the Museum’s collection each year through acquisitions and donations.
This lantern features an engraved pictorial scene that includes two steamships and a passenger train moving through a forest. The lantern, made about 1860-1870, was likely designed as a commemorative item or gift, rather than for practical use as a signal lantern. An engraved inscription reads, “Central R. Road Line NY and San Francisco.” This likely refers to the Central Pacific Railroad, the California company that built the western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Manufacture of lanterns for the railroad industry was a major component of many American glassmaking firms throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This style of lantern is now referred to as a fixed-globe lantern, featuring a glass globe cemented to the metal armature. This is the earliest type of railroad lantern, used primarily from the 1830s to the 1870s. Later lantern styles favored removable globes that could be more easily swapped out when broken.