R.F. Wilton Electric Co 1929: Bit of Toronto's Lighting History
Featured in this post is the 1929 R.F.Wilton Electric Co. Catalogue from Toronto, Ontario. Located at 124-128 Richmond Street West in what is now an awe inspiring parking bay for the Sheraton Hotel, the R.F. Wilton Company was a prominent retailer and distributor of electric lighting in Toronto. They occupied 3 addresses of prime retail space in Toronto’s downtown core and directly competed with large companies such as Simpson’s and Eaton’s located a bit further east along Yonge St.
Wilton offered a wide variety of lighting as seen in the 1920s pan lights, Tudor revival lighting and modern Art Deco designs. Strictly a retailer, they would have ordered their lighting from factories in Canada and the US to sell locally. We’ve seen many of the same fixtures from other company catalogues as wide spread as Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Inside the catalogue is an order form as well which would allow consumers to select the finish, quantity and length of the fixture they desired. With prices ranging from $3.00 for a hallway fixture to $15.00 dollars for a dining room fixture, the lighting carried appealed to a mass market and middle class. We make joke about the prices then, but $15.00 was the equivalent of $300 now.
Over the years many of these lights from the R.F.Wilton Co come into our showroom from old homes all around the city. They’re usually covered in white house paint or worse, and are in definite need of a refresh. We love working on them as they provide instant links to a homes past and homeowners are really pleased to see what would have been in the house in 1929.
In my mind, the most interesting part of this catalogue is not necessarily the lighting inside but the link to Toronto’s past. The catalogue was printed in 1929; the tail end of the roaring twenties and the birth of the great depression. Electric lighting was a huge technological innovation that everyone scrambled to acquire and the twenties were the true age of electricity and innovation. From lighting fixtures to light sockets, its fascinating to see what was modern at the time and the selecting of lighting people had before them. When I’m walking around the city and see a nice cast iron porch light that’s been there for 90 years, it doesn’t look tired or dated. Instead it looks proud and stoic. A small but illuminated link to both the home and Toronto’s past.