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An Homage to A.C. Dietz

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From the new book The Hidden Secrets & Stories of Walt Disney World

If you mosey over to the General Store in Frontierland, you’ll see on an exterior wall a small sign next to an oil lamp which reads, “A.C. Dietz Co. – Importer of Coal - Oil Lamps – Hardware – Harness – A Complete Line of Saddles.”

Typically, in a manner similar to the windows on Main Street, U.S.A., a sign such as this pays homage to an individual who played an important role within The Walt Disney Company, such as a notable animator, an innovative Imagineer, or someone who helped build Walt Disney World Resort. However, in this case, this sign recognizes someone outside the world of Disney with an obscure but definite connection to Walt Disney and the early days of Disneyland!

In 1955, when Walt was building his brand new park, Disneyland, he bought all of the lanterns used in Frontierland from the R.E. Dietz Lantern Company. Nobody working within that company, however, was named A.C. Dietz, but the founder had a cousin in San Francisco, who owned and ran a General Store during the 1850s much like the one upon which this sign is affixed. It provided all the supplies the rugged forty-niners of the California Gold Rush needed to work their claims, including harnesses and saddles for their horses, bags of grain, wire, mining supplies and oil lanterns made by the Dietz Lantern Company. And the name of this General Store owner was… Alfred C. Dietz!

Now if you were to look closely at the lantern hanging on the wall next to the A.C. Dietz sign, you would think it closely resembles a model made by the Dietz Lantern Company, but instead, it is manufactured by W.T. Kirkman Lanterns, Inc. Why isn't it a Dietz lantern? Because the original Dietz lanterns made for Disneyland and the early days of Walt Disney World were manufactured using components made of tin. Unfortunately, those components wore out over time and the lanterns needed replacing. Disney turned to W.T. Kirkman Lanterns to provide them with new galvanized steel models, which do not rust and stand up better in today’s weather...or that of the 1850s. (Or in this case, 1876, which ties in with the address of the building and the burlap bag in the window with the brand of "Uncle Kepple & Sons"!)

My thanks to W.T. Kirkman Lanterns, Inc. for their valuable contribution to this story.

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