Sometimes mid-20th century novelties for pet care and display are….well, sort of bizarre. This is one of those items.
It is a combination television light, intended to sit atop the set and provide a little ambient light in a darkened room, and fishbowl. On the left, a light tbulb shines through the translucent fiberglass “paper” behind the black metal grid. In the top is a shallow pyrex bowl. It’s purpose is unknown; perhaps it just protected the bulb below. I theorized that it held fish food, but I think I’m reaching a bit here. On the right, an open-top glass architectural block has become the fish container, and behind it is a printed scene of a mountain and trees glued to the back of the metal case. (It’s hard to see. I’ll try to take some new photos to show some of the details.) I’m assuming that this dates to the late 1950s or early 1960s, when tv sets came in big cabinets that could hold a lamp like this on the top — along with some other elements of Populuxe decor.
A little research revealed that this item survives in multiple examples out there in collector-land and that it was manufactured by the Bilt-Rite Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois. Apparently they made novelty tv lamps and clocks.
Why a fish bowl? And there are OTHER tv lamp/fish bowl combinations, too. As I thought about it, I realized that there was a strange kind of conceptual continuity in this genre of artifact. The family goldfish in its globe on the parlor center table, a common domestic ornament by the mid-nineteenth century, was replaced by another poor finny soul in a too-small container, this time perched atop the electronic hearth.