If I remember the technology behind the Forest Fire lamp, and its cousin, the Niagara Falls lamp, it was just simple plastic cutouts that rotated around a bulb. When I was three, it was impressive enough that you could plant me in front of one of these things, and I’d watch for hours. They were the big thing in the later forties and early fifties. Yeah, I know; big deal, huh?
These days if it were a screen saver on the computer, we’d delete it as being too dull. However, if you are an insufferable romantic for the fifties, you can find these consigned at thrift shops or Flea-Bay.
We found this old press advertisement from 1946 while renovating our home. It took a moment for me to realize what I was looking at, but then it was like my memory did a flip, and three-year-old Louis watched the lamp while the adults chattered and enjoyed coffee.
There is a video of this operating somewhere online, and it’s interesting how such a simple illusion catches the eye. Maybe not up to modern screensaver standards, but it has an actual physical presence that a screensaver lacks. If you suspend your modern techno-savvy tastes, you can imagine sitting in a darkened room watching Niagara Falls.