Holy Toledo ...Torches!
July 7, 2010 10:22 AM   Subscribe

U.S. Patent 1732708 "...relates to street torches, such as are commonly used for illuminating road obstructions." Starting in 1929, The Toledo Pressed Steel Co. manufactured millions of small, round kerosene-burning torches (sometimes called smudge pots) that look like cartoon bombs.

The Toledo Torch became widely used at road construction sites across the U.S., and other companies produced similar, competing devices.

Although they have long since been replaced by traffic barrels, vintage smudge pots can still be found in attics, at fleamarkets, and on ebay. You might give an old torch new life as a garden sculpture, or ditch your tiki torches and just purchase a new one. They're made these days by Fisher-Barton Incorporated.
posted by usonian (13 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Also, they are good for keeping away Moose and Squirrel.
posted by jquinby at 10:42 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Excellent... I am one prop closer to creating my replica Beast Master set. I can take these and lengths of chain to create poorly lighted dungeon scenes. mwaaahahahahah! *rubs hands together*
posted by Severian at 10:51 AM on July 7, 2010

I remember seeing these all the time as a little kid, and also the distinctive smell of the burning kerosene. My father explained what they were, so I never labored under the misapprehension that they were bombs, but it made cartoon bombs seem totally plausible to me, unlike some other outdated things like horse-drawn garbage pails and the omnipresence of anvils.
posted by briank at 11:03 AM on July 7, 2010

Wow, I can still remember the smell of these. Haven't thought about them in years.
posted by octothorpe at 11:06 AM on July 7, 2010

I've lived in and around Toledo for about 15 years and I've never even heard of these damn things. I'm sure there has to be some lying around - they'd be great for the yard!
posted by charred husk at 11:11 AM on July 7, 2010

When I was a child back in the early 60s, I lived about two blocks from the police station. The alley behind the police department was dug up for some reason and they had the smudge pots in front of the saw horses blocking it off.

My friend and I had the brilliant idea that we could toast marshmallows over these things. (We were only 7 or 8 years old at the time--not an age that one thinks things through very well.) We smuggled marshmallows out of my kitchen, got some sticks and were well on our way to having consumed several when a cop walked out the back door and freaked out at us. Today I can just imagine how horrified he must have been to see us eating those black, kerosene-covered marshmallows.

And yes, they did taste oily and disgusting.
posted by leftcoastbob at 11:12 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I loved these things as a kid. I want one. Probably a pain to obtain, in Europe.
posted by Goofyy at 11:39 AM on July 7, 2010

They were replaced with the flashing yellow lights that were attached to a kind of saw-horse that was red and white striped. The flashing lights had no off switch, as I recall, and everything in the enclosure was sealed in a solid block of hard paraffin or tar. They were about the same size as the "bombs," and replaced them one by one.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:41 PM on July 7, 2010

bahahaha, quicktime? to view a patent? no fucking thanks
posted by tehloki at 3:36 PM on July 7, 2010

I saw a lot of these when I was a kid. They're cool for reasons that defy my attempts at rational analysis. I'd like to have one, but I don't know what I'd do with it.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 4:59 PM on July 7, 2010

Those were little icons of my youth as well. Why did I want one so badly? To this day I love the smell of kerosene.
posted by sneebler at 5:00 PM on July 7, 2010

Somewhat akin to dial telephones. If you remember these, your game of choice growing up was pinball.

Needless to say, I remember.
posted by mygoditsbob at 7:28 PM on July 7, 2010

The ol' Toledo Torch, eh?
posted by electroboy at 9:02 AM on July 8, 2010

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