Samples of glass, metal molds, plaster molds, wooden molds, and decorative lighting elements from the studio of William Yokel. WHS collections 2009.34, gift of Connecticut Historical Society.

Artisan William G. Yokel designed and repaired lighting fixtures and stained-glass windows from his Hartford and Windsor workshops during the early-20th century. The materials displayed in the photo above are examples of the tools and decorative lamp parts found in his Windsor workshop. Included in our museum collections are salesmen’s samples of colored glass, plaster molds used to cast lamp details, unfinished lamp parts, and technical drawings for several lighting fixtures.

Born in 1891, Yokel was the son of lighting designer Frank Yokel, a German native who moved to the United States in the late 19th century. William apprenticed in his father’s Meriden, Connecticut, shop. Although trained to produce oil and kerosene fixtures, Yokel transitioned to electrified lights as they became more common in the area. In his shop, he cast, electroplated, and assembled lamp parts. He also designed and repaired stained-glass windows for ecclesiastical and domestic clients and dabbled in decorative ceramic painting.

Yokel Corporation craftsmen examining a mold used to prepare one part of a lighting fixture. WHS collections 1994.16, gift of Linda Bodnar, Interim House, Inc.

In 1920, William and his father opened the Yokel Corporation on Homestead Road in Hartford. The company produced lighting fixtures and stained-glass windows, focusing on a wholesale clientele. In January 1923, the company’s work was featured in a display at the Hartford Electric Light Company and the Yokel Corporation was advertised as an up-and-coming business. Unfortunately, the Yokel family’s debts forced the foreclosure of the Homestead Road shop later that year, likely leading to their relocation to Windsor.

The family had moved to their own home on Deerfield Road by 1930. At that time, the Deerfield and Wilson areas were becoming suburban communities that were home to a growing number of first and second-generation Americans. Yokel’s neighbors included Polish, Lithuanian, Swedish, French-Canadian, and Italian families. Like many of his neighbors, Yokel probably commuted to Hartford for work; he also kept a workshop at his residence. After his death in 1957, the Windsor workshop remained closed for many years. Some of Yokel’s materials, tools, and products were donated to the Society after the shop was cleaned out in the 1990s.

In the 2010s, children and adults could try creating their own stained-glass designs at the William Yokel activity station in WHS’s former Hands-on-History Learning Center.

By Erin Stevic, Curatorial Consultant, 2009