The Enos Company

Enos Lamp
Country Life in America advert c.1908

The Enos Company was established in 1852. Although its beginnings are unclear, there were 2 individuals who played major roles later in its business life. These were Alanson Trask Enos (1856-1931), and Alanson's brother Frank Enos (1865-1928). Both were nephews of philanthropist, and venture capitalist Spencer Trask (1844-1909).

Beginning in the 1870s, Trask began investing and supporting entrepreneurs, including Thomas Edison's invention of the electric light bulb. Spencer Trask's wife married DeWitt Clinton Enos and from there, an important family bond with the Trask family was made. With Spencer Trask's early investment in Edison's invention, 1895 sees Frank Enos listed as Secretary of the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York. Newspaper accounts in the same year refer to the company as Oxley, Giddings and Enos Company, later still it became Oxley and Enos Manufacturing. Exactly who Oxley is has yet to be discovered.

The company specialized in the manufacture of high quality gas lighting fixtures, they appeared to be well funded and profitable. As the new century turned towards electricity, the company continued to grow embracing this new method of lighting. By June of 1901 The Oxley and Enos Manufacturing Company was consolidated with The American Gas Fixture Company. The incorporation showed a capitalization of $450,000 and included another name change to the company, Oxley Enos Company. It would appear that the industry, and Enos themselves, were slow to adopt these changes in name, and in many cases simply referred to the company as "The Enos Company" for which it was more commonly known.

Their products were not aimed at the stained glass lighting market. They advertised heavily in several trade journals and consumer magazines during the 1903-1911 periods. Their designs were universally conservative, describing their products as "from French, Early English, Colonial, Flemish and all other recognized periods". Their shades were often of molded or bent glass with minimal decoration, the decoration was usually applied to the metal fittings and bases.

Numerous retail branches in major US cities were listed in their advertising. Strong relationships with Architects serving both residential and commercial projects were their target market and key to their sales. It is this last incarnation of the firm, Oxley Enos Company that deserves attention.

Although their shades were often rudimentary, they produced outstanding metal work which included lamp bases. An advertisement (left) published in 1908, piqued our curiosity. This particular model was familiar, and several variations of it have appeared at auction, some with a single light, others with three. The style of the bronze bases was typical of those we find on lamps from Bigelow, Kennard and Company of Boston. Until this advert appeared, the attribution of this model to Bigelow was assumed. Significantly, as stated in the advertisement, Bigelow, Kennard & Company were the Boston representatives of Enos. This begs the question; did Enos make Bigelow's bronze bases?

This was 1908, a year when Bigelow's presence in the booming leaded glass lamp market was already established. Wilder Quint's important 1909 article in New England Magazine of his visit to Bigelow Studios implies that the bases were made at the studios along with the shades.

"This is one more, and not the least, of the home achievements of the establishment, for every standard is originated by Mr. Bigelow himself. Each is modeled first in wax, then in mahogany, then in the more sturdy white metal from which the bronze casting is made, and is finally finished and colored in the workshops of the Studios."

Depending on how one interprets Quint’s statement one possibility exists. That Homer Bigelow 'originated' the bases, i.e. designed them, shipped the designs to Enos and then received the completed bronze castings back for finishing in-house. The statement never actually states that the bases were made on the premises. The quote “Finally finished and colored in the workshops” is all that we are certain of that was done in-house.

For now, at least, we are left with a possibility, nothing more, but the relationship between Enos and Bigelow Studios is worth exploring further.

In 1909, an interesting appointment was made. Carl Roesch, an associate editor of Architect & Engineer Magazine was promoted to manager of the Western office of the company in San Francisco. Architect magazine of December 1909 states "Prior to coming to the Pacific coast, Mr. Roesch was a student of Willy Lau of Chicago, of whom there is no more distinguished designer of lighting fixtures in the Middle West.".

By early 1911, Enos employed 275 employees with annual sales averaging $350,000. All seemed well at Enos, which was all the more surprising when they filed for bankruptcy in August of 1911. Bankruptcy announcements in the press showed they had liabilities of $431,000, were in debt to some 400 creditors and indebted $258,000 in ongoing loans. These loans were from the estate of Spencer Trask, referred to as the Banker. As Trask died in 1909, it's possible that his estate wanted to call in the loan to Enos.

In May and June of 1911, leading up to the bankruptcy, several large public sales of heavily discounted inventory appeared in the press. After bankruptcy was announced in August, several attempts to liquidate the company's assets were made. A Trustee's sale of lighting during December was followed by a massive auction of all the company’s remaining assets in April of 1912. Edward Schroeder Lamp Works purchased all the patterns and dies from the company in May of 1912.

Photo courtesy of a Private Collector, 3 light example
Photo courtesy of a Private Collector, platform detail
Enos advertisement detail
American Home and Gardens, March 1911
The Architect, Jan-Dec 1907
Architectural Record, February 1904
New York Times, December 10th, 1911
New York Times May 11th, 1911
Showroom of Oxley Enos, Fifth Ave, NYC, 1904