The Traffic Gard Kerosene Lantern
Highway - Traffic - Municipal - Contractor - Utility

EMBURY #40     DIETZ #40     HANDLAN #57

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Open Flame Torches:

Highway torches (a/k/a "smudge pots") have an obscure background but may be traced to the Mc CLOSKEY TORCH COMPANY,TOLEDO, OH, PAT'D DEC 14, 1926. It's unknown if that is a patent grant or application date, but the originals appear to be cast iron affairs. The best known were first produced in 1927/1928 by the Toledo Pressed Steel Company and others quickly followed (Dietz and Embury of course); Handlan made them and Piper sold 'em. Even non-lantern manufacturers, such as Shanklin, later Park Industries (Storm King), and Anthes (Flame Guard) got in on this business, as well as truck-lighting K-D Lamp Co. Their open flame required little maintenance and they also had long burning times. Large fuel capacity with easy filling , bright signal, as well as few parts (including no globe that needed to be cleaned) made them very popular with road contractors and highway departments. For many applications, particularly in rural areas with higher speed traffic, they began to displace lanterns. But in cities where low speed traffic and most water, gas, and other underground utility companies provided service, the lanterns ruled until transistors replaced them.  Here are some details about different brands.  Also see the Storm King page.  (Toledo Torches are still being made by Fisher Barton of Fountain Inn, SC.)




Winthrow &   Close/Toledo




Embury &  Perkins
















Truck Flares:

These are a type of torch very similar to highway torches but usually smaller.  Often found in a stacking bracket or box for attachment to a truck or truck-tractor as required by many states as well as49 CFR 393.95.  A highway torch was usually designed to burn through a weekend while a truck flare was designed to burn through the evening to protect a disabled vehicle until it could be removed or repaired. 49 CFR 392.22 and the state laws regulate how and where the flares are to be placed.

Decline in use:

Even if traffic lanterns ceased to be produced after the 1960s their durability and dependability (the negative comment to the contrary below probably primarily refers to torches) carried them for another ten years. They had always been included in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways as an unquestioned traffic control tool up until a final entry in the early 1970s:

6D-7 Lanterns or Torches.
As used in this Manual, lanterns and torches are single-unit, portable, constant-burning, low-intensity type of lights with open or enclosed flame. They provide negligible illumination of other objects, and are not altogether dependable under adverse weather conditions such as high wind or heavy rains. Furthermore, the flammable fuel used in the lanterns or torches may be a hazard to life and property, and their use, therefore, is not recommended

Subsequent editions made no mention of lanterns.