May 25, 2024

The David Cole Collection

Early on during my research into the lamp maker Texans Incorporated I had the pleasure of meeting David Cole, an enthusiastic collector of the companies products. David is best known as a collector of vintage bottles, but he has also acquired many of the ceramic lamps that were manufactured only a few yards from his home. Texans Inc. has always been a fixture (pardon the pun) in David’s life. He grew up with many of the plants officers and workers, once loaded sacks of clay into the plant from the adjacent railway and even witnessed the lightning strike that destroyed the building in ’71. Today David is the premier authority on Texans Inc., and his collection of their products is undoubtedly the most comprehensive in existence. The various designs that came from the hands of the workers at Texans Inc. ran the gamut from the mundane to the exotic, and this collection has them all, housed in a room that displays them in spectacular fashion. One might expect to find the Siamese Cat, mallard duck, poodle & pug or owl TV lamps on display, but what sets this collection apart are the many rare designs, and unusual variations, that are included. Examples of these are the golden pheasant TV lamps, in both brown and an unusual airbrushed color variation. Two “bird and bell” lamps are displayed, as well as a black mother-of-pearl Siamese Cat lamp. He has a “bull & brands”, a “butterfly & magnolia, and a terrific cowboy boot table lamp. David even has the seldom-seen “dancing couple” TV lamp. There is more to this room than lamps however, as numerous Texans ashtrays, pots and vases can also be found.
Overseeing this brood is the most unusual, and largest, piece of all, a clown table base that was never put into production. Designed just prior to the 1971 fire, this marvelous sculpture was to be used in a child’s room, the clown supporting a ball with an elephant balanced upon it above its head. The ball was bisected by the tabletop, the top half appearing to protrude through the surface. The design is beautifully sculpted and skillfully airbrushed, but the enormous piece proved difficult to fire, usually cracking or, in the case of this example, sagging from its own weight. David’s clown, the only one known to exist, leans forward significantly, certainly unable to support a tabletop in a horizontal position. The top of the ball and elephant figurine are missing, and the only known example of that part was destroyed several years ago. An increasing area of this collection has been the table lamps, dating from the early ’50s through the final products from the early ’80s. While Texans is best known for their TV lamps, the vast majority of production was table lamps, with models that targeted discount stores, high-end furniture stores, and everything in between. Besides the Texans lamps, numerous lamps from Challenger Lighting, the company that purchased Texans Inc. in ’82, are also represented. As many times as I’ve viewed this assortment of ceramic collectibles I still spot pieces that had been unnoticed previously. It has long been David’s dream that these pieces would be displayed publicly, and with a little luck they will one day reside in a museum dedicated to the history of Bangs, Texas. This collection never ceases to impress, both for its content and for its presentation. Thanks David!