Happy 50th Birthday, Lava Lamp



lava lamps,lava lights

It’s hard to imagine a product that better captured the bohemian vibe of America in the 1960s than the lava lamp, especially in a counterculture that often reveled in the rejection of material goods.

The lava lamp made its first commercial appearance in England on this day in 1963. Its inventor, Edward Craven Walker, dubbed it the Astro Lamp and within a couple of years it had made its way to America and into the hearts of hippies hither and yon.

Somehow, in the midst of all that anti-capitalistic wartime rhetoric, it became okay to own a lava lamp (or what was then being marketed as a Lava Lite). In fact, most peaceniks found it downright groovy.

Lava Lamp Mechanics

Of course, why the odd lighting fixture rose to stardom is really no mystery at all. Simply put, it is groovy.

The original design consisted of a standard incandescent or halogen bulb that heated a glass globe filled with water and a mixture of mineral oil, paraffin wax and other binding chemicals. Once warm, the gelatinous substance rises and falls within the glass chamber in endless patterns of shape-shifting blobs.

Lava Lamp Love

While lava lamp sales have waxed and waned (pun intended), its position as a historic slice of Americana remains a constant. The Smithsonian Institute has dubbed the lava lamp a 60s icon and it’s hard for anyone of the era to see one and not be stirred with thoughts of Woodstock, The Beatles, unruly beards and peace symbols.

Today, lava lamps can still be found in specialty stores and in hip Internet shops here and there. They come in many different sizes, although none to date have been big enough for Brent Blake and a handful of lava lamp enthusiasts in Soap Lake, Washington. Blake has been trying to get funding to build the world’s largest lava lamp at the lake since 2001, but so far the reception has been … ah … a little mellow.

ATGStores.com would like to wish a fond and nostalgic happy 50th birthday to the lava lamp in all of its blobby glory.

This lava lamp design from Fortune Products captures the nostalgic 60s vibe of the original Lava Lite in a retro rocket-ship design. 

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