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Thursday, December 13, 2012

F. Persky & Company- The Beginning of the Perko Story

Full view of the Persky & Co anchor lantern. Today the company is known as PERKO.

The PERKO Story consists of many interesting pieces. They make up a modern day marine hardware success story that goes back over 100 years! This is the first sentence from the Perko story, the history of the famous American marine lighting company as taken from their website. I had known enough about the Perko story to turn to it while researching this recently discoverd lantern and the article was the source that validated it's maker. So, this blog is in part about the Perko companies beginnings and is demonstrated by an example of one of the first marine lanterns produced by this famous marine hardware company.

Name of PERSKY & CO., AJAX , NEW YORK, U.S.A. on hourglass shaped globe.

This early example is of one of their first anchor lanterns produced when the company was created by F. Persky & Company, New York, lantern makers in the early 1900's. The company was in operation for about a dozen years until 1913 when Frederick became president of National Marine Lamp Company. This Company name was established prior to Frederick Persky changing his last name to Perkins! (See history below).

Side-open view of the Persky lantern.

This unique lantern was manufactured using galvanized metal with brass chimney cap and 'Christmas tree' vents and ring handle and two tie-down rings on each side and five vertical wire guards. Fixed 'hourglass' shaped molded colorless globe with embossed letters stating "PERSKY & CO. AJAX. NEW YORK, U.S.A.". According to a PERKO representative, they believe that the name 'AJAX' was the name of the company that produced the glass globe. Measures 10 3/4" tall, exclusive of the ring bail handle, 4 1/4 inches diameter of base. Slight scaling on exterior of the metal surface, but overall, this lantern survives in good original condition. Missing burner.

Top section and brass chimney cap of Persky & Co. anchor lantern.

History (The Perko Story)

The story starts with Frederick Persky, who later became known as Frederick Perkins. He was a Russian immigrant who was schooled in Germany as a machinist and tool-and-die maker. Frederick came to the United States in the early 1890's and soon became employed as a machinist for E.W. Bliss & Company in Brooklyn, New York. In the early 1900's, he and a partner began operating a business, F. Persky & Company, Lantern Manufacturer, out of the basement of his house.

In 1907, Frederick's son Louis joined him in the business, and together they enlarged both the product line and the manufacturing facilities. By 1912, they had seventeen employees and made a wide range of marine lanterns and products.

The business continued operating until 1913 when Frederick became president of National Marine Lamp Company, based out of Forestville, Connecticut. Frederick and Louis left that company in 1916 and moved back to Brooklyn, New York, where they started Perkins Marine Lamp Corporation.

Anchor lantern manufactured by the National Marine Lamp Co., Forestville, Ct.

Five generations later, PERKO is still a privately owned, family operated corporation, which is unusual in today's marketplace. Perkins Marine Corporation was initially known as Perkins Marine Lamp, Inc. The original focus was on the manufacture of hand formed sheet metal products for the marine market. The first catalog was published in 1916, with a product line as diverse for its time as PERKO's catalog is today.

Anchor lantern manufactured by Perkins Marine Lamp Co.,  Brooklyn, New York

It included a full range of kerosene and electric lanterns for small and large boats, ventilators, chart cases, signaling devices, mooring buoys, pumps and a variety of spare parts. These products, fabricated from brass, copper and galvanized sheet metal, began what was our ongoing reputation for producing high quality products. We still do some hand forming and soldering today, much as it was done in our early years.
In 1922, the "PERKO" trademark was instituted. Each new product (and there were many) utilized the latest, sophisticated metal manufacturing technology and customers came to expect the highest standard of excellence from PERKO products.

Two other examples, one identical to the one in this blog, the other manufactured in brass was in the Phillip Sullivan Collection of Lanterns, recently auctioned off by the Jeffry S. Evan & Associates, Mt. Crawford, Virginia.

The Persky & Co. AJAX anchor lantern is currently available at Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery. Follow the link above to the product listing on their webstore.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Spectacular Battleship Size 48-Star American Flag

Massive 48 star US ensign laid out in front of Skipjack Nautical Wares.
It's a wonder what one might find digging around at local antiques and flea markets. And that is what we encountered this last Saturday at the Olde Towne Antiques to Flea Market here in Portsmouth, Virginia. Held the first Saturday of each month, the Olde Towne Portsmouth event is always full of interesting items, from the typical yard sale flea type finds to the most unexpected treasures. Last year, I discovered and purchased a Philadelphia windsor bowback side chair, branded with the name of the maker, John Letchworth (1759-1843). His shop was located on Third Street between Chestnut and Walnut (1784) and he actually made chairs for Thomas Jefferson and used at Monticello. More on this in a later blog.

A view above the flag. Magnificent!
This time we discovered an extremely large pile of wool bunting stuck in the corner of the vendors booth that appeared to be the colors and design of an American flag. Upon closer inspection, we knew it was more than that, it was a major find. I asked the owner what he knew about it. He responded by saying that they had just purchased it and it came out of a house accross the river in Norfolk, VA. The flag had been stored away for longer than the previous owner could remember, but recounted that it once was flown above a battleship during WWII. Unfortuately, he did not know the battleships name. This is not unusual. Other accounts of battleships decommissioned and deaccessed flags were sometimes removed in order to maintain secrecy.

I continued and asked him how large was the flag and the condition....obviously way to big to unfold and inspect in it's current location. He responded, "Well, it's about 20 feet by 30 feet or thereabouts and is definitely worn. To big for anyone to hang on their walls".
After not much consideration, Alison paid them for it and I hauled it out to our car. Damn heavy; that's a lot of flag to carry and a lot of history too!

Alison measures the  height of the flag.
Later that day, with the help of a few of our friends, we unmatted the pile of flag and stretch her out in front of our store. We reviewed the condition of our find- yes, definitely some rips and tears, typical of the damage inflicted on a ships flag due to weather and/or battle conditions. We found the flag makers tag sewn on to the heavy canvas heading. The tag stated:  "HIGH GRADE, REG. U.S. PAT. OFF., BUNTING, -ALL WOOL-, THE BEST SINCE 1847'. This was the label used on U.S. government and military flags made by Annin & Company, New York, a major producer of high quality flags and the maker of this one as well. The massive 48-Star US national ensign flag, measured  20' x 38' in size and according to the presidents standardized sizing for flags created in 1912, this is flag size #1, the largest of US ensigns produced. Annin & Co. named this size flag "ABRUS".

The sewn on tag by Annin & Co., New York.

Folding up the flag for safe storage.

A 1926 advertisement fot Annin & Co., New York.

USS Iowa commissioning ceremony. The flag is similar to the one in this blog.
This flag was a great discovery and I would rank it up there with some of our greatest we've uncovered to date. Not so much as a valuable item, monetarily wise, but such a major symbol of our nation, potentially flown during major naval battles and rising above all others as the symbol of freedom that so many have laid down their lives defending it. Semper Fi!

Here is the link on Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Galleries page on our webstore. We will also consider donating it to the right foundation or museum if the right opportunity arrives.  We have also included here a link to the Zaricor flag collection, a national treasure presentation of American ensigns, jacks, flags  & pennants.