Vapo Cresolene miniature medical lamp vaporizer

Vapo-Cresolene Co. New York, USA
Kerosene Lamp & Heating tray with original embossed glass burner which is embossed with “Vapo Cresolene Use Kerosene”, milk glass chimney, ornate iron stand with old gold paint finish and tin pan on top that held the Vapo Cresolene medicine.

Cresolene is a dark liquid with a pungent smell made from coal tar used in the 19th and early 20th century as a disinfectant[1] and to treat various ailments such as colds and measles.

This vaporiser came from Lois Hunter’s great grandmother, Edith Ellis Wilson. Edith Ellis Wilson trained as a midwife at Queen Victoria Hospital after she was deserted by her husband. She established a lying in hospital in Albion Street, Brunswick c.1918.

The first Vapo-Cresolene lamp came into being in 1879. James H Valentine was desperately trying to find something to relieve his daughters whooping cough symptoms. He put a coal tar acid called Cresolene in a tin cup and suspended it over a small kerosene lamp. The soothing vapours soon filled the room and she found relief.

Valentine was granted a patent for his lamp on August 4 1885. He began production of his medical lamps but lacked the capital to expand the market beyond the village limits. He received financial assistance from George Shepard Page and eventually sold out to Pages’ children.

This lamp bears patent dates of August 4 1885 and August 8 1888
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Object detail

glass, metal
15.5 x 7.5 x 7.5 cm (vaporiser)
Accession Number
Credit line
Gift of Lois Hunter, 2012
Object Type
Medical History Museum Category


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