Herb Millman wrote the book on Art Deco lighting. In fact, he wrote two. Owner of Cockamamie’s in New Hope, Pennsylvania, Herb is an institution in the world of antique lamps. He has shipped radio lamps, TV lamps, table lamps, and boudoir lamps to clients all over the world. Now, he is retiring from his Main Street shop to focus on writing his third book.
“Radio lamps used to sit on top of the radio back in the 1930s when the family would sit around listening to Captain Marvel or whatever radio show,” Herb explains. “The only light in the room came off the radio lamp’s globe. When they came out with TVs, you were looking at a picture tube. So, with a TV lamp, the light would come from behind it. When you were watching a TV picture, the lamp would not be distracting like it would be with a globe. Those would be like 1948 until 1955, maybe 1960 the latest. Then the accent lamps would go in the corner of a room, the boudoir, the bathroom, the bedroom. It was just a nice little lamp on the side. Then you have the boudoir lamps which would be on vanities and when women were putting their make-up on, there would be one on either side of the mirror. And then you have your traditional table lamp.”
Herb’s shop is set up like a museum of his personal collection. When he buys a new antique lamp, he brings one from his home to his shop so he has the space to enjoy his newest find. It is a time warp to the era of beautifully decorated theater lobby lights to Tiffany inspired table lights, art deco ash trays and statues.
“There is a place in Manhattan, on Madison Avenue, called the Macklowe Gallery, and I have been in there because I was on QVC selling Tiffany inspired lighting, so that got me an introduction to the owner of the Macklowe,” Herb says. “It is by appointment only. The general public does not just go in there. They have lights that are $300,000. It was an amazing experience. They wouldn’t let us take pictures, but we could walk through and ask questions. At the time, they made a lot of these Tiffany lamps. People threw them out when they got tired of them. Now, you get a Tiffany lamp and it is worth a fortune. I get these people who come in and say, ‘I’ve got $500 on me… Can I get a real Tiffany?’ Are you kidding me? They just don’t know.”