While not exactly TV lamps, “Helmscenes” are certainly a close relation. They were manufactured by Helms Products in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a company founded by Laurence Helms. Having just sold Helms Industrial Development Company, a company that produced replacement automobile grills and grill guards, he was looking for another manufacturing arena to conquer. A poorly-lit framed photograph displayed at a local restaurant caught Helm’s eye, and he came upon the idea of illuminating pictures evenly from the back. This notion became a multi-million dollar business. Initially Helms contracted some stages of production to others, but over time the company became increasingly self-sufficient, manufacturing their own birch frames and doing their own photo-gelatine work. In 1952 production began in a new 78,000 square foot plant on Plainfield Avenue, where Helms Products employed 140 people and made 1000 Helmscenes a day. Independent photographers across the country were used to capture scenes for new designs, and 35 salesmen aggressively sought-out new dealers. Helmscenes were made in various sizes and configurations, but all utilize a plastic screen imprinted with a back-lit image. Although best known for their many rustic outdoor images, religious scenes and verses were also used, as well as reproduced paintings. Popularity of Helmscenes eventually waned, and the company ceased production in 1968. Laurence Helms passed away in 1987. Helmscenes are quite durable, but today many show signs of rough handling or careless storage, and examples in top condition are rare and valuable. Similar products, sold under the Lumascene brand, were made by Millcraft Products in Allegan, Michigan.
Helmscene Picture What a classic Helmscene…and I got it for a song! You’d think that these would be everywhere, but Mt. Rushmore seems to be one of the less common images on Helmscenes.
Helmscene Picture The back of the Rushmore Helmscene reveals a myriad of markings, among them the identifying stamp that reads: No. 117 Mt. Rushmore Nat’l Memorial, South Dakota.
Helmscene Picture This is Model “TV”, scene #77, showing Cypress Gardens, Florida, and is a fine example of a Helmscene. Photos courtesy of Mona.
Helmscene Picture A back view reveals the original hang tag!
Helmscene Picture Top view of the Helmscene.
Helmscene Picture The marking indicates name and location of manufacture.
Helmscene Picture The Helmscene Last Supper was one of the companies biggest sellers. Photos courtesy of Grampy’s Auction Drop.
Helmscene Picture The back side reveals the Last Supper to be scene #71.
Helmscene Picture This Helmscene features a fine woodsy scene, complete with frolicking deer. Another Model “TV”, this one is scene #82. The scene used on this example was photographed by George Patterson. Photos of this Helmscene are courtesy of Susan in Canada.
Helmscene Picture Just light that baby up and listen to the oohs and aahs!
Helmscene Picture Using the same picture as the example above, this Helmscene is in the picture-frame format. Photos courtesy of Cal, from the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Helmscene Picture The back shows this to be scene #82, representing “Wild Michigan Whitetail Bucks”.
Helmscene Picture Helmscene made lamps of varying styles, including this cylindrical design that was referred to as model “WI”. Photos courtesy of the Russell’s from Wapakoneta, Ohio.
Helmscene Picture Here’s the flower scene shown from another angle.
Helmscene Picture Metal stand used with the flower scene lamp.
Helmscene Picture Helmscene wasn’t shy about promoting the brand, as it’s clearly displayed on most all of their products.
Helmscene Picture This hunting dog scene is definitely one of the less common Helmscene examples. Photos courtesy of Tim from Rockford, Michigan.
Helmscene Picture Back view of the Helmscene hunting dogs.
Helmscene Picture This one is Helmscene style #53, showing Goose Lake Washington in Autumn. Photo courtesy of Tim from Rockford, Michigan.
Helmscene Picture Here’s Helmscene style #88, which shows Lake Saranac Birches, Adirondack Mountains, New York State. Photo courtesy of Doug from Stillwater, MN.
Helmscene Picture Hmm…this is odd! Marked on the back as No. 89 Fulton Lake, Adirondack Mountains, New York State, this is identical to the scene No. 88 shown above! (#88 does appear to be cropped a bit when compared to #89) Photos courtesy of eBay seller kennethi1948.
Helmscene Picture Close-up.
Helmscene Picture Here’s the stamped marking on the back of #89.
Helmscene Picture This Helmscene is great, and extremely rare! It is style #98, which shows “Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, Canyon Explorer”. Photos courtesy of the swell folks at WildWestCollectibles.com.
Helmscene Picture Back view of the western-themed Helmscene lamp.