Tensor lamp

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Tensor lamp
Tensor lamp.jpg
Tensor high intensity lamp prototype (ca 1959, Brass, steel, copper, plastic, glass). Kept at the Brooklyn Museum. Gift of Jay Monroe
Product typeSmall high-intensity low-voltage desk lamp
Produced byTensor Corporation
CountryUnited States
Introduced1960; 63 years ago (1960)
Discontinuedc. 1980; 43 years ago (1980)
MarketsUnited States

A Tensor lamp is a trademarked brand of small high-intensity low-voltage desk lamp invented by Jay Monroe.[1][2] The lamp was mainly popular during the 1960s and 1970s.[3][4] The lamp was originally used by doctors and dentists, and later became more widely used.[5] Although the first prototype was created in 1959, the lamp was not made available to public until 1960. The brand was manufactured by the Tensor Corporation.


The first Tensor lamp consisted of assembling together a 12-volt automobile parking light bulb and reflector made from an ordinary kitchen measuring cup. Monroe fixed the cup to a metal tube that was attached to a transformer, which reduced 115-volt house current to 12 volts. Because of the small bulb, the entire lamp could be made smaller with a light-directing shade.[5] Monroe was issued a patent for his invention.[6]

By 1963, the lamp was sold to the general public as a decorative desk lamp for home and office when several other manufacturers entering the field.[1] The main competitors to Tensor's high-intensity and low voltage lamp during the 1960s were the similarly looking Lampette brand of lamps manufactured by Koch Creations,[1][7] the Mobilette,[1] a series of Italian designed lamps sold by Stiffel,[1] and the Michael Lax's designed Lytegem lamp that was manufactured by Lightolier.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Reif, Rita (March 21, 1964). "Interest in Tiny Lamp Rises". The New York Times. p. 17. ProQuest 115722599. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  2. ^ "Tensor lamp inventor dies". United Press International. July 5, 2007. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  3. ^ Ingersoll, John H. (January 1965). "Big Light in a Little Package". Popular Science. Vol. 151, no. 1. Bonnier Corporation. p. 151. ISSN 0161-7370 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Those little high-intensity lamps". Kiplinger's Personal Finance. Vol. 19, no. 6. Kiplinger Washington Editors. June 1965. pp. 35–36. ISSN 1528-9729 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b Martin, Douglas (July 2, 2007). "Jay Monroe, 80, Engineer Who Invented Tensor Lamp, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  6. ^ US patent 3133703, Monroe, Jay, "Desk lamp structure", issued 1964 
  7. ^ "Lampette Reading Lamp (model E6)". Museum of Modern Art.
  8. ^ Hall, Peter Alec (July 29, 1999). "Michael Lax: His kettle, lamp and cookware were design icons of the 60s". The Guardian.