Tuesday
Apr052011

The Amazing Beattie Jet Lighter

Beattie Jet Lighter Box, Lighter, and Jet Nozzle Probe EnvelopeI returned home recently to find a surprise parcel from my friend, Richard Friedman, waiting for me. Nestled inside, in its original packaging, was a remarkable pipe lighter – a Beattie Jet Lighter.

Even now - some fifty years later – the fascination with the Beattie Jet Lighter is palpable. As I searched high and low for information on this futuristic product, I found a bevy of YouTube videos, Flickr photos, and eBay listings for the Beattie. In every case, people extolled their affection and fascination for the lighter, calling it their “favorite new gadget.” 

What was perhaps more surprising was the absolute lack of facts or information about the product, its inventors, or marketers. I wound up making telephone calls to archivists and assisted living centers trying to find people who could tell me the Beattie Jet Lighter story, or the story of its Adirondack summer-camp owner-namesakes.

Here we have a remarkable product that spent approximately only 15 years on the market, yet it is admired and loved by everyone who knows about it. Yet, ironically, the Beattie story is shrouded in mystery. It’s been fun uncovering the knowable traces.

Beattie Jet Lighters were made from the mid-1940s until 1961. Both now and in their day they were immensely popular due to their ingenious method of producing a two- to three-inch horizontal flame upon tipping the lighter. Pipe smokers found the lighter an ideal solution for lighting a pipe because the flame would not burn their hand and was easily directed into the bowl chamber.

The long side-thrust flame of the Beattie Jet LighterAlthough the lighter produces a flame similar in appearance to a butane lighter when tipped, the Beattie Jet is a fluid lighter. The Beattie uses a jet pressurization principle to shoot out the flame.

When the lighter is not tipped, it produces a Zippo-like flame suitable for lighting cigars or cigarettes.

The original patent drawings submitted by Guy BarkerAs you will see from the patent drawings at right, the Beattie has a double-wick system. A traditional wick rises in a tube proximal to the lighter’s striking wheel. With the Beattie, a second wick runs through the cotton-packed wicking reservoir into the jet tube that curls up through the lighter top and protrudes toward the traditional wick.

A tiny orifice - smaller in diameter than a fine hair - is at the end of the tube. When the lighter is tipped, the traditional wick flame heats the tube, vaporizing and pressurizing the fluid that has wicked up through the tube. The vapor is forced out the tiny orifice and is ignited by the flame at the traditional wick.

William E. Evans’ 1939 Patent Drawings with longer jet tubeAlthough the Beattie is a fluid lighter, the flame is surprisingly hot and will ignite tobacco in no time. When one initially tips the lighter, the flame rockets forth from the orifice with gusto. Thus, it is important to let the jet settle down from its initial ignition lest one scorch the bowl rim.

The jet lighter was first invented by London-based Guy S. Barker in 1929. He filed his U.S. Patent on November 5th, 1930 and was granted his patent on January 17th, 1933. Inventor William E. Evans, who worked for the Waterbury Lock and Specialty Company of Milford Connecticut, created a refined design based on Barker’s original work. Evans filed his patent on August 25, 1939 and was granted a patent on May 20, 1941. Yet a third jet lighter design was created by Francis Leslie Phillips who received his patent approval on December 30, 1947. Phillips design is almost an exact duplicate of Evans’ earlier design.

Early Beattie Jet Lighter with single patent numberFrancis Leslie Phillips Patent Drawings (Final Version)It is possible to differentiate earlier Beattie Jet lighters from later versions by both the patent number(s) listed on the lighter and by the typography engraved onto the lighters’ bottoms. Earlier lighters list Guy Barker’s patent number: 1894300.

Later versions list both the Evans patent number (2242906) and the Phillips patent number (2433707). Oddly, some Phillips-designed lighters with a reservoir fill screw on the bottom list the Barker patent number and not the Phillips number.

Sometime prior to 1944, the patent rights to manufacture the Beattie Jet lighter were acquired by Robert W. Beattie of Brooklyn New York. Beattie, who grew up in Upstate New York in the Long Lake area attended the Manual Training High School, an engineering and technical school where he developed an appreciation for ingenuity in invention. Though the Beatties lived in Brooklyn where they operated a pre-school, Beattie and his wife, Elvira, owned and operated a summer camp – Camp Beattie - located on the west shore of Long Lake. The camp is no longer in operation; it has become a private residence.

Why Robert Beattie - a camp owner and pre-school operator decided to go into the pipe lighter business is one of those mysteries I am still investigating.

1950s era wholesale directoryThe Beattie Jet Lighter was produced in nickel plate, chrome plate, engine-turned chrome, heavy silver plate, heavy gold plate, and in solid sterling silver. One could buy them encased in lizard, morocco, and pig skin leathers. Prices ranged from $6.95 to $49.00 for the solid sterling models. A desk model in either morocco or pigskin was sold for $11.95.

Beattie Lighter with flip cover up1950 Popular Mechanics advertisement for a Beattie Jet LighterOne can almost divine the inventors’ origins from marketing messages on the lighter’s box-packaging and in advertisements for the lighter.

“Ideal also for:

  • Thawing out frozen car locks,
  • Blackening gunsights,
  • Lighting campfires and fireplaces,
  • Doing small soldering jobs.”

Now, fifty years after Beattie ceased production and sales, these lighters still work - and work very well. They are a wonderful vestige of their time. They are also a pipe-smoker’s friend when used carefully!

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Reader Comments (34)

Hi,

Yup. Love mine.

I've actually had a few of these. Was love at first sight. For those of you who know me that's probably not surprising.

They can be a bit temperamental and sometimes don't "FLAME ON!" exactly on cue. I have noticed that once the tube gets hot it's hard to get the jet to light up again until it's cooled. So you only get a few quick tries at lighting your pipe. However it will get the job done and with some practice it's not a big deal.

I had no idea there were so many versions out there. Pig and lizard skin? Wow. I only have one now. Someone came into the shop offering to sell an almost new one in the box and with the little pokey thing for cleaning out the jet. Besides the standard nomenclature it had the word "Sterling" stamped in the corner. I was not in that day. However the person who was on duty knew of my love of these and my love of sterling. He called me and asked to verify if I'd pay the money, then bought it and I paid him back when I got in. I then sold or gifted the others.

I have to say it's very cool but not as practical as my sterling armored Zippo. Nonetheless you have inspired me to use it today as I finish working on some of my pipes. On the pipe I'll be smoking, not the pipes I'm making. I'm not planning any soldering today.

Thank you so much Neill for discovering all this great information. I have to go back to work now but I'm going to read this post several more times when I get back tonight.
April 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterG.M. Weber-Prada
Neill

Great, something else to look for in antique stores I didn't know I had to have! What a cool piece of historical technology. I can see why it was so popular in it's day.

Thanks for sharing.

Quinton
April 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterQuinton Wells
I'm with Quinton on this one. Thanks for fueling my addiction to things I really don't need, but want!

I can see the financial headlines for eBay: "eBay Stock Rises Fueled by Beattie Sales".
April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBruce A. Weaver
Neill - This history is fascinating and the lighter is very cool, but having watched you using it yesterday I came to the quick conclusion that this is not a toy for me. I am certain that within minutes of trying one out my pipe would look like a gas soaked rag on the end of a stick and what little is left of my hair would be sacrificed to Hephaestus.
April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWarren Wigutow
I have one of these too - with the original packaging! Another fine exaple of cool tobacianna from our past.
April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterColin Rigsby
Hi,

Thanks for updating the article.
His collection is small but mighty!

I thought it interesting to see the variances of the boxes. Mine is a red one with the grayish pipe like the box on the far right in the picture. I wonder if we can tell a date or era by when the box design changed?

Mine also has only one patent number but no screw at the bottom of the case. It is simply a friction fit slip-case like a Zippo.

It's a fun lighter if you don't have a lot of wind to contend with. It's eccentricities can be dealt with by simply working with it's personality. It's not a match or a Zippo. When the jet flame begins to extend I simply aim it at the center of the bowl, or fit it down into the bowl as necessary. It does not take more than a few seconds to light the pipe. Once or twice around the rim is usually plenty. When I want to stop I don't pull the lighter away and drag the flame over the rim. I simply close the lid.
April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterG.M. Weber-Prada
I am looking for the tiny piece that fits on the end of the tube where the long flame comes out. Any ideas?

Thank you.
September 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave Hilbert
Dave, if I were you, I'd look for a junker to take the part from. They are out there, I know.
September 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterNeill Archer Roan
Hello! I worked at a apartment complex and was cleaning a move out when I located a Beattie jet lighter in an old suitcase. I opened the red box not knowing this had never been used. All parts were beautifully kept. I thought it to be an interesting lighter so i put it to the side and brought it home with the rest of my collectables. Never new how old it was until today. I have two patent #s on mine and the original probe for the tip. Thanks for all the information!
September 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCorey R Calhoun
I have had this lighter stashed away in a box full of collectable smalls (something that fits in your hand). I collect vintage toys ,but there is always something bright or shine or odd ball that attracts me (switchblades lighters trinkets ect ) . Or it could just have been part of a collection I purchased . But I finally pulled it out today and and did some investigating on google and ebay , I didnt have flint in mine but I did have the zippo lighter fluid .So I filled it and let it soak in , then took my Bic lighter and lite the wick AND WOW !!!! , This thing is great ! I have the box and instructions but never gave them much thought , i just figured it was a crummy little item that couldn't do what was printed on the box, and if it did work it would only do it one time. I'm so glad all this information was here , Now do I sell mine on Ebay ? or do I start another collection ?? I probably have had this lighter 5 years and never even botherd to take it out of its box,till today. This thing is SO COOL ! Thanks
October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Hemmer
I have an older Beattie Jet Lighter & love it so much, I bought another one.

This one I just bought however does not have the screw in the bottom to service the lighter.

I figured it can't be that difficult or technical to figure out. I was in error, at least so far !

How does one get in to service, replace flints, even fill these Beattie's with no apparent access on the bottom ?

Please help !
December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGeeJay
I had one along time ago. Back in 1976 while camping on the 4th of July, someone picked it up and I never saw it again. It was the best lighter I ever had. Still have the box & probe, sure would like to find another. The info in your article was nice reading. Thank you. I learned some very good facts that should be a big help looking for my next one.
January 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDale Swanson
Anyone have any idea where one can find one of those wee probes used to clean the jet orifice? Or even the diameter of the wire probe? My lighter works fine but someday that orifice may need a cleaning and I'd like to be able to do it. Anyone have a probe they will part with? Sell, trade...whatever?
February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChuckMac
Hi There, I found your website because I own a Beattie Jet lighter and was doing research on them. Anyway my mother and father were both from brooklyn and met at the beatties campground back in the 40's. The campground was on Long Lake up in the Adirondacks. My father has passed on but my mother is still alive at 80 years old and remembers the beatties. We also have alot of pictures of the campground at that time. I just thought this story might add to the history of the beattie lighter. Anyone know where to get the wicks or flints for these lighters?
March 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbob
The Beattie jet is a great and unusual lighter.

There is no screw on the bottom, you pull up on the top to separate it from the bottom.

What you need to clean the jet is a very fine wire like you find inside electronic devices insulated wire or you can use a very fine steel wire, like in steel wool, cut off a piece and glue it to a tiny hole in a small stick that's flat on one end, that will become your "probe" to open a clogged jet pipe.

I used a piece of wire from a insulated electronic wire but a short piece of steel wool wire should also work, you just need a very fine stiff wire as a "probe" to open up a clogged jet.
April 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersheila chambers
Thank you very much Sheila! That's some good thinking. I'll do just that.
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChuckMac
I just made a permanent "probe" for my Beattie jet lighter.

A very thin steel wire from a wooden handled steel bristle brush, (fine wire), a cap from a Bic pen, close up glasses and a oil lighter.
You cut off a piece of wire from the brush, use the oil lighter to melt the plastic on the end of the clip on the cap, insert end of wire into the melted plastic, let cool and you have a nice permanent probe for your Beattie jet lighter.
I just bought another Beattie jet and the little, tiny hole was clogged, made my probe and now I have a 4" long jet from the lighter!
April 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersheila chambers
I just got one as a gift. Very neat, never heard of one before. After replacing the flint, I lit it up an it worked slck! My sample gets very hot to hold after a short while, is this normal?
April 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEd
Since the pipe goes far into the body of the lighter, I would expect it to heat up if left burning.

So a hot lighter is to be expected if you leave the jet burning but not just the regular flame although any lighter will heat up if you leave it on long enough, even the metal wick holder will transfer heat to the rest of the lighter.

This is a very cool and practical oil lighter and does draw attention when you use it.
April 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersheila chambers
I picked up a Beattie Jet recently but It has me beaten as far as how to add a flint or fluid. The bottom is solid, no fuel port or flint access. Two patent numbers are on it, 2,242,906 & 2,433,707. It looks like the top section must slide out of the bottom section (like a Zippo) but so far has resisted any attempts to do that. I would appreciate it very much if you could tell me what am I doing wrong?

???,

Tom
July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom

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