I live in a mid-century ranch, a one-story house that’s basically a rectangle, although to its credit, it has an attached garage with a rather exciting asymmetrical roof angle.
This asymmetrical aspect is a main feature of the mid-century architectural movement (ca. 1933 – 1965). Even more exciting, the house, built in 1960, is still clad in its original aluminum siding. So retro!
Since purchasing it in 2008, I’ve spent lots of time and money updating what I call “infrastructure,” or what my friend calls, “the non-sexy bullshit.” (Non-sexy BS means a new well pump, water tank, roof, furnace, plumbing, windows, oil tank, etc.)
For awhile, I was overwhelmed by the non-sexy BS and considered selling the house, but a Realtor(r) came through and said, “Oh, this is all cosmetic what you have left to do. Don’t stop now.”
Her words re-energized me, and so I’ve started on the living room, which needs major help. Actually, I’m working on the hallway, which starts at the living room and then divides the house in half. The hall is 14 feet long and narrow.
I figured finishing it first would be an easy win: Give it a fresh coat of paint, replace the old ceiling light fixture, buy a hall runner to add some color, and I’m done.
First step: search for Made-in-the-USA light fixtures
Last year, I made the decision to purchase products made in the U.S. whenever possible. My reason for doing so is because I want to support U.S. jobs and manufacturing.
I began my search for light fixtures online. I found the perfect fixture, and made in the U.S. by an artisan too, but alas, the cost was $3,000. Nice, but a tad outside my budget.
I did find a few companies that make reproduction mid-century fixtures, and while some companies do make lighting products in the U.S., not all product lines are manufactured here.
I’ve learned you really have to read labels and do your due diligence before purchasing. Companies will place “Made in the USA!” tags on their goods, but if you read the label, you learn that part of the product was made in China or elsewhere and then is assembled here.
Anyway, after some searching, I found a pretty cool original mid-century light fixture on eBay. I really like the star bursts, which will look fabulous with the light shining through.
I went to install it but learned that the cluster (the thing that holds the glass piece in place from the ceiling) had screw holes 3″ apart while the screws in my electrical box are 4″ apart. Curses!
Off to the electrical supply store to see what were my options. Basically, I could get a new cluster to fit my box at a cost of only $2.95. Wow!
“But wait,” I asked, “is it made in the U.S.?”
The guy behind the counter thought I was nuts.
“Are you crazy? Nothing is made in the U.S. anymore,” he informed me.
“Sure, stuff is,” I said. “You have to look for it.”
“That cluster you have there — it’s not made in the U.S.,” he said.
“Oh yes it is,” I replied as I proudly showed him the tag. “It was made by Triangle Home Products in Chicago, Illinois.”
The Triangle Home Products post I wanted to write
I wanted to write a post about the company ever since I first read the label on the cluster after opening the box it arrived in. But, after some preliminary searching, I learned the company had ceased doing business in 1997, when it liquidated its remaining product line.
The company was founded in 1956 by Arthur Herman; the company name is still held by his son, Stephen Herman. He holds it due to the sentimental value the company has within the family.
I look at my painted metal cluster and think about the factory full of workers making this and other products like it. Those jobs kept people employed, often for decades. Manufacturing, and the subsequent steady wages, is what helped give rise to the middle class.
I’m not trying to romanticize anything. Those jobs back then were often tough, hot and dirty. The people who did the jobs were working class.
But factories like Triangle Home Products pumped life blood into local communities.
And, they often increased people’s standard of living.
After a little more searching, I learned that one reason the company went out of business is due to the union not backing down on things like health insurance and good pay for new hires.
But like many companies, Triangle Home Products had a hard time competing and remaining profitable against other companies that moved manufacturing outside the U.S. where they didn’t have to offer good wages or health insurance or even comply with things like OSHA regulations.
Thus, they could offer cheaper goods — such as $2.95 clusters.
I read a blog post recently that stated it’s our right to purchase goods at the cheapest price possible and that products made offshore benefit all of us.
I can see how that line of thinking makes sense. But when people lose their jobs and can’t find new ones because entire industries have been moved offshore, well, then they sometimes can’t even afford the cheapest goods.
At any rate, back to my hallway. I decided to stick with my made by Triangle Home Products cluster. I have to call an electrician who apparently will know how to install an adjuster plate of some sort so that he can attach the cluster to my electrical box.
It will cost a little more but that’s ok.
As I thanked the guy at the electrical supply store for his help, he said, “You know, that cluster in your hand, it would probably cost $10.95 today — or more. No one will pay that.”
“I would,” I said. “I would because it means I’m helping to support jobs and our manufacturers here in the U.S.”
Next up on the hall renovation: purchasing a runner made in the U.S. If you know of a company in the U.S. that manufactures reproduction rugs, please let me know!