The Lava Lamp is an outstanding icon of the 60s and 70s! Stoned or straight, one could sit for hours watching the slow motion bubbles from the bottom of the Lava Lamp. They rise slowly, sometimes breaking into pieces, sometimes merging with others. Once at the top, they sit for a while and then slowly sink to the bottom to start again.
Edward Walker invented the Lava Lamp based on a lamp that he spotted in a pub. He brought his new invention, called the “Astro Lamp” or Astro Light” to a Hamburg trade show in 1965 where Adolph Wertheimer noticed it and bought the American rights to the product and began to produce it as the “Lava Lite”.
The construction is fairly simple, a glass bottle filled with a clear liquid and a colored wax, sitting on a base with a light bulb. As the bulb heats the wax on the bottom, it expands, becomes lighter than the liquid, and rises. As it cools, it contracts, becomes heavier, and sinks. Once it warms up, there’s a continual flow of wax “blobs” rising and falling.
Lava Lamp and Psychedelia
Watching the slow bubbles of a Lava Lamp is relaxing, some may call it addicting. It’s easy to see how it would have extra appeal to someone a bit high. Walker said of his lamp, “If you buy my lamp, you won’t need drugs… I think it will always be popular. It’s like the cycle of life. It grows, breaks up, falls down and then starts all over again.”
Lava Lamps have gone mainstream and are still made and available in department stores, and there is usually one on the shelf at the Goodwill Store. Their construction has changed some over the years as some of the original materials have been replaced with safer ones, but they still work the same and I still love to watch them.