PDA

View Full Version : Researching candle lamps:



xamier
01-02-2007, 08:58 PM
Greetings:
Mr. Morgan combined easily obtainable items that one would have had access to as a civilian in our time period and made a candle lamp/lantern.

He used the globe from our oil lamp, we havenít been able to get oil in some time, and put it over a candle. To keep from breaking the globe, he made a wooden base for it to set in and included wooden runners to attach a bale and to keep the globe from being knocked over.

Now, it seems to me that this little lantern made from period materials that were readily available and bearing some resemblance to metal candle lanterns that I have seen is something that others may well have put together. I am looking for documentation of similar items and I would appreciate any help or ideas that anyone might offer.

http://i125.photobucket.com/albums/p78/xamier1/candleholder-1.jpg

GrumpyDave
01-03-2007, 06:43 AM
http://home.planet.nl/~veld3996/incandes.html

Soldiers used candles because they were easy to transport. Civilians of the time didn't move like the armies, nor did they travel with them after Antetiam. But, that's another whole can of worms. A typical middle class civilian of the time period would have used parafin, coal oil or whale oil lighting. I did a whole bunch of research on whale oil before our winter camp event last year. The information is out there.

Memphis
01-03-2007, 08:12 AM
Who was Mr. Morgan during the Civil War, and did someone actually find documentation for those wooden and glass camp lanterns?

EmmanuelDabney
01-03-2007, 12:48 PM
I think that this may be a case of what does the history say versus what are we looking for it to say?

Home lightning by 1860 was a standard and rapidly developing part of life in America. Depending on where you live you could have access to candles, kerosene (newest, hottest item), whale oil, camphine (oil of turpentine), and gas lights (in cities and towns or if wealthy enough your own home gas works).

I would say that regardless of your financial situation, candles would be common. Expect gas lighting and kerosene in households with extra cash. Expect to go to bed fairly early in rural areas, particularly when not blessed with extra cash (candles do cost money). And those with less money also have to get up earlier and start work.

A decent stearin candle can be gotten from Virginia Mescher: http://raggedsoldier.com/candles.html

CandaceRose
01-03-2007, 01:02 PM
Who was Mr. Morgan during the Civil War, and did someone actually find documentation for those wooden and glass camp lanterns?

Mr. Morgan is Betty's husband and likely was not around during the Civil War. :-) They are trying to find documentation for a candle lantern he would like to produce.

vmescher
01-03-2007, 02:48 PM
Greetings:
Mr. Morgan combined easily obtainable items that one would have had access to as a civilian in our time period and made a candle lamp/lantern.


I did a quick patent search so my information may not be complete. The first patent for a lantern that used a candle was for a steamboat lantern. It was patented on Dec. 28, 1838 and was made of sheet tin. The number was 1,044 and the class/subclass was 362/161 (those lanterns using candles). The next patent in this class/subclass was not issued until 1866. I did not find anything similar to the image posted.

There were other subclasses of lanterns but most of those used some type of burning fluid, rather than candles.

I ran out of time so I could not do a more thorough search.

GrumpyDave
01-03-2007, 06:23 PM
The "wooden" candle lantern has been researched ad-nauseum with pretty much the same result.

Em,
If you have any research you'd like to share on whale oil anything, I'd be very interested.

Dave Towsen
VP Potomac Legion
Columbia Rifles

Jim Mayo
01-03-2007, 07:39 PM
Interesting little lamp with a 1863 patent date.

xamier
01-03-2007, 08:37 PM
The "wooden" candle lantern has been researched ad-nauseum with pretty much the same result.

Dave Towsen
VP Potomac Legion
Columbia Rifles

Mr. Towsen:
We are not looking for documentation of a wooden candle lantern such as one sees at most suttlers.

The lantern in question uses a glass globe. It came about because the wind kept blowing out our candles and I have a bad habit of dragging my arm/sleeve across the candle flame. We started by setting a globe from an oil lamp over a candle. This evolved into a wooden base to hold the globe and then a way to carry the entire affair.

It occurred to Mr. Morgan and myself that this might be something that was used during our time period and we are endeavoring to find out. However, I have had very little luck finding images or descriptions of candle lanterns or holders beyond vague comments about the lamps smelling bad or the use of horn in a candle lantern when glass was unavailable.

It seems to me that once one ran out of oil and started using candles; one might take a globe off of an oil lamp to place over a candle to keep sleeves, curious children............ out of the candle. It is not very far from doing this to knocking something together out of wood to make the candle lamp more convenient to use. (I am sorry that the picture doesn't convey the actual item. It is a base with dowels to hold the globe, another base to hold the top of the globe and then the dowels extend up to make a handle)

I am trying to find out if this was ever done or used. This form of research may seem backwards to some, but we have had a lot of luck with figuring out how to do something using available period materials and then finding the item actually existed. (We never actually take items into the field until we have documented them) It is a lot of fun, attempting to put oneself into the frame of mind of long ago and then trying to think about how one would solve a particular problem.
Respectfully,
Betty Morgan

xamier
01-03-2007, 08:54 PM
I did a quick patent search so my information may not be complete. The first patent for a lantern that used a candle was for a steamboat lantern. It was patented on Dec. 28, 1838 and was made of sheet tin. The number was 1,044 and the class/subclass was 362/161 (those lanterns using candles). The next patent in this class/subclass was not issued until 1866. I did not find anything similar to the image posted.

There were other subclasses of lanterns but most of those used some type of burning fluid, rather than candles.

I ran out of time so I could not do a more thorough search.

Ms Mescher:
Thank you for doing the patent search. Can you tell me about what fluids were burned other then whale oil, lamp oil and kerosene in lanterns?

I am thinking about animal fat or fish oil as something that might have been used when/if whale and lamp oil became uncommon. I am wondering how one might put such a lantern together from materials that one might have on hand with period techniques. I am also wondering if the description of lamps stinking were because they were using an alternate fuel source.

Thank you for your assistance.
Respectfully,
Betty Morgan

Spinster
01-03-2007, 09:37 PM
Miss Betty,

Lets back up a step or two and think about what became 'dear' in your part of the country and when.

You're thinking of candles as a back up to oil lamps. But the makings of candles, whether spermaceti or beeswax, became dear in the south fairly early in the war.

Vicki Betts illustrated this shortage, and the lengths folks went to save candle wax quite well in her article The Model Economical Candle
http://www.uttyl.edu/vbetts/candle.htm

Having tended more than one of these, I can say that the wick must be moved so often that a globe would be wasted effort.

So, in looking for a backup lighting source, look to cheaper oils, or those that do not burn as well, rather than candles. The miserable twist of wick in a saucer of pork fat , or the rank smoke of a pine knot, is far more likely than the gentle glow of a candle under glass.

And failing all those poor substitutes, enjoy the fire light, and go on to bed. Sun rise comes soon enough.

Spinster
01-03-2007, 09:53 PM
I am thinking about animal fat or fish oil as something that might have been used when/if whale and lamp oil became uncommon. I am wondering how one might put such a lantern together from materials that one might have on hand with period techniques. I am also wondering if the description of lamps stinking were because they were using an alternate fuel source.



Okay, I've read this again, and I see where you are attempting to go.

What you are looking for is a slightly earlier technology that I know as a 'pan lamp'. It has all the earmarks of a 'make do'--it stinks, and its messy.

A spike nail about 5 inches long has a chain suspended from it. At the end of the chain is a metal pan about 3 inches square. The sides are folded up in such a way as to make 4 small pointed corners and a depressed center. Wicks lay across and stick out each corner. ANIMAL fat or VEGETABLE fat (not lamp oil) is poured in the pan, and the wicks are lit. Pretty decent light, but as the oil warms and expands, its going to drip on the floor some.

One version I have of this lamp would be easily made with scrap metal, once the concept was known. I also have a very sophistocated version of the same concept, circa 1790, that is a rather ominous looking bird perched over the pan than serves as an oil reservoir.

Memphis
01-03-2007, 10:08 PM
Potato lamps, Betty lamps, and the good old sardine can lamps come to mind.

GrumpyDave
01-04-2007, 07:17 AM
I'd guess keeping the kids and your clothing out of a burning candle was a pretty common occourance in the 1860's. Same with the stove or fireplace. I think, because of the means of construction of the time period, glass chimney's would have been relatively expensive.


"Turning attention to the price data, we may note first how expensive whale oil was in comparison with the crude oil that replaced it. Even at its lowest historical prices, in the 1820s, the least expensive type of oil (whale oil) was priced at more than $200 (2003$) a barrel (42 gallons). At its highest price level (1855) Sperm Whale oil sold at more than $35 (2003$) a gallon, namely almost $1500 (2003$) a barrel (!). " - http://www.aspoitalia.net/aspoenglish/documents/bardi/whaleoil/whaleoil.html


Common sense is the best route to take. I'm not saying, it's not possible, that some driven individual didn't make something out of shingles, glass and bailing wire so his kids didn't get into the candle, I just don't think there's any documentation such an item existed.

BTW, I have one of the afformentioned lamps in my collection.

Rob Weaver
01-04-2007, 08:15 AM
Injuries and even death from lamp accidents were extremely common during the entire period during whic they were used. They were very justifiably frightened by fire. I'l give you a horrifying example: Henry W Longfellow and his wife were reading by candlelight when the candle somehow ignited her dress. She was wearing a number of crinoline petticoats and she went up like a torch before her husband's eyes. She did not survive. Henry wrote: "And in despair I bowed my head/'There is no peace of earth' I said./ For hate is strong and mocks the song/ of peace of earth, goodwill to men." Her death was one of the things which propelled him into that dark state of mind. "Then pealed the bells more loud and deep/'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.'/ The wrong shall fail, the right prevail/ With peace on earth, goodwill to men."

I would recommend to anyone using lamps to exercise more caution than you normally would. Even when we burn candles in our homes, it's rarely with the extra highly flammable things like long sleeves, dresses, straw, etc to ignite. For this reason I would not recommend actually using a slush lamp except for very short demonstrations. They flash over pretty easily, and there's a lot of stuff for them to burn. Even sardine oil is hard to stamp out before it catches one of those bits of tinder above described. That horrifing bit of history I'd rather avoid.

MrsArmstrong
01-04-2007, 09:04 AM
What type of lighting would have been used outside as apposed to inside lighting? What would be the difference for outside but about your own property and when traveling short distances, if your walking?
Susan in the dark Armstrong ;p

hanktrent
01-04-2007, 10:49 AM
Walking outside on your own property, if there's any moon at all, probably wouldn't require much light since you'd know it so well, unless you were going into an outbuilding, needed to check something, etc.

If carrying a light was necessary, I'd say the classic rectangular tin lantern, either oil or candle, would be most common. Anyone have other suggestions? Couple of examples:

http://images.library.uiuc.edu:8081/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/tdc&CISOPTR=2160&REC=5

http://www.osv.org/learning/CollectionViewer.php?N=3.2.330

If night lighting was really important to you, the upgraded version with all the bells and whistles was this, a bullseye or dark lantern:

http://www.osv.org/learning/CollectionViewer.php?N=3.2.262

Lens to focus the beam, shield to make it darker or brighter... I want one of those, but they'd really only be appropriate for law enforcement, slave catchers, night watchmen, naval or military use, etc.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Spinster
01-04-2007, 12:06 PM
Walking outside on your own property, if there's any moon at all, probably wouldn't require much light since you'd know it so well, unless you were going into an outbuilding, needed to check something, etc.



Hank makes an excellent point here. For the past couple of years, when packing for an event, the first thing I do is check the almanac. If I've got a half moon or better, the various lighting devices stay home, except for one in the 'emergency category'.

This works well as long as the event has reasonable standards, and folks get there and parked rather than driving around camps with the brights on looking for the "14th Nagauscukett Highland Regimentals" and blowing up my carefully established night vision.

Folks of the period were well accustomed to the phases of the moon, and the uses thereof. With glasses, a full moon and a clear night, I can read the Leslies. With my cane, I can walk a dirt road if the moon is past a quarter. And I knit in the dark anyways. My main failing in this task is not making sure my bed is straight well before dark.

With thought, practice, and foresight, we just don't need near as much light at night as we think we do.

vmescher
01-04-2007, 01:11 PM
Ms Mescher:
Thank you for doing the patent search. Can you tell me about what fluids were burned other then whale oil, lamp oil and kerosene in lanterns?

I am thinking about animal fat or fish oil as something that might have been used when/if whale and lamp oil became uncommon. I am wondering how one might put such a lantern together from materials that one might have on hand with period techniques. I am also wondering if the description of lamps stinking were because they were using an alternate fuel source.

Thank you for your assistance.
Respectfully,
Betty Morgan

Betty,

In researching ledgers, I saw very little whale oil was being sold by the 1860s. Burning fluid (camphene) and kerosene was the predominate lamp fuel sold. Candles were much more commonally sold.

From glancing at the various patents specific lanterns used a specific fuel and were not interchangeable unless the lamp parts could be exchanged. Lamps were sold in pieces so that the parts could be replaced when they were damaged or broken. Ledgers show, even after lamps were common, candles sold better than the lamps or fuel.

When whale oil lamps (needed two or three small wicks) went out of style, the mechanism that held the wicks may could have been exchanged for the one flat kerosene wick if the wick holder would fit the whale oil lamp. It seems oil was discovered whale oil and the use of whale oil lamps plumeted. I haven't done any research on the camphene lamps except to know that the fuel and lamps were extremely dangerous.

Tallow, whale oil, lard, all smelled pretty bad when burned. They smoked and produced soot. Tallow candles guttered and sputtered and the wicks had to be trimmed quite often. Whale oil smelled and sooted. Lard and scrap grease all smelled like burned grease when used. Of course with all the other smells that people were used to, one or two more really didn't matter.

Lard, scrap grease (Betty lamps), button lamps and the like were used but could be dangerous so I would not recommend using them. Vicki Betts has made and show others how to make the Confederate economical candle but that was used more for a night light and like the other open flames can be dangerous.

It might be best if you would use pierced tin lantern with a candle. That is safe, period, and easily obtainable. There are some very good reproductions out there.

Old Sturbridge Village has an extensive exhibit on lighting and they might be able to assist your study.

hanktrent
01-04-2007, 02:28 PM
Another less-explosive option to camphene was the Kinnear patent lard lamp. This lard oil wasn't for your open Betty lamp kind of thing, but was refined and sold for tin lamps specifically made for the purpose, with an enclosed reservoir and a very wide flat wick (1-1/2" to 2" wide). Refined lard oil is available today as a cutting oil.

I'm curious about the pierced tin lantern's popularity by the 1860s. Glass was getting cheaper and offered more light. How commonly do the pierced tin "Paul Revere" style lanterns show up in period images, vs. the glass-paned kind of lanterns? Would using the pierced tin kind indicate "really backward hick," or would it be "common for most country folk" or "PEC for everyone"?

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

vmescher
01-04-2007, 03:03 PM
I'm curious about the pierced tin lantern's popularity by the 1860s. Glass was getting cheaper and offered more light. How commonly do the pierced tin "Paul Revere" style lanterns show up in period images, vs. the glass-paned kind of lanterns? Would using the pierced tin kind indicate "really backward hick," or would it be "common for most country folk" or "PEC for everyone"?

Hank Trent


The reason I suggested the pierced tin lantern for safety purposes. I realize that the pierced tin would have been considered old fashioned. I wasn't commenting on the popularity of the lantern but since Betty was trying to construct a lamp from available pieces, I was assuming she was not trying for the most up-to-date lamp.

The tin lanterns in the 1865 hardware cataloge that I have all all had glass sides and either burn coal oil or kerosene. Of the tin lanterns, there were egg and globe patterns both burning coal oil and kerosene. These types had a large globe encased by a wire frame with the oil resovior being the bottom of the lantern.

There were also brass lanterns with glass panes shown. These lanterns were made with a smaller lantern and chimney enclosed in a larger glass paned metal frame and reflectors. These came in different shapes.

xamier
01-06-2007, 01:28 PM
With thought, practice, and foresight, we just don't need near as much light at night as we think we do.



The reason I suggested the pierced tin lantern for safety purposes. I realize that the pierced tin would have been considered old fashioned. I wasn't commenting on the popularity of the lantern but since Betty was trying to construct a lamp from available pieces, I was assuming she was not trying for the most up-to-date lamp.
There were also brass lanterns with glass panes shown. These lanterns were made with a smaller lantern and chimney enclosed in a larger glass paned metal frame and reflectors. These came in different shapes.

Thank you all:
I have learned a lot about lighting (and created a monster. :evil: Mr Morgan is now shopping for the worst smelling lamp he can find) I never thought to look for period hardware catalogs, what a source of information. :D

Mrs Lawson, a very good point about modern folks view about lighting. Even though we were trying to get into a period mind set, the modern view of turning night to day had crept in. :(


Currently, Mr Morgan has dropped the wooden candle lamp idea, even if done it couldn't have been common. :-| He is shopping for a kerosene lamp for outside and we will use the pierced lantern or our tin candle lantern when we are forced to use a tent inside and we will remember that inside lights don't have to be used unless we are inside also.

I would like to find a period hardware catalog to look at, can anyone give me any tips where I might look? I will also contact the Sturbridge village and see if they can be of assistance.
Respectfully,
Betty Morgan.

hanktrent
01-06-2007, 02:35 PM
I would like to find a period hardware catalog to look at, can anyone give me any tips where I might look?

The problem is that illustrated mail order catalogs weren't really around in our era, except as wholesale catalogs for store owners, so unfortunately there weren't as many as there would be only a few decades later.

One that's available in reprint is Russell & Erwin's 1865 catalog of wholesale hardware items. It's been reprinted by several companies, but a google search on "russell and erwin" will bring up several places where it's for sale new and used. As far as I know, the page images are not online, but it includes many drawings of tools, household items, etc.

Not a hardware catalog, but a similar item in reprint (by Dover) is G & D Cook & Co.'s Illustrated Catalogue of Carriages, which is just what the title implies.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

xamier
01-08-2007, 10:38 PM
Hi,
Found something interesting on this particular style of candle lamp, it was made and was patented. The entire concept is the same, the glass globe, bale, candle holder, etc. However the material used was metal instead of wood. Fine thing, but only 40 years too late. Patent was filed in 1894.

I do appreciate all of the fine help and suggestions for reliable and safer lighting. I have burned one too many sleeves with unprotected flames not to look for a safe alternative for lighting.

I'll keep on the watch till I have just the right gizmo.

Yours,
David Morgan

KarinTimour
01-12-2007, 08:36 AM
As this discussion has pointed out, kerosene WAS a period fuel. If you are planning to use kerosene at a reenactment, make sure that you've got the proper tools in case of an accident. For many people, their fire safety precautions are to keep a bucket of water handy near fires or other open flames. If someone tips over a kerosene lamp, throwing water on it will cause the burning oil to float on the surface of the water and spread the flames to a larger area.

A much better idea is a bucket or two of dirt or sand kept handy.

There are quite a few lovely kerosene lamps available, both late 19th century originals and reproductions. Most of these are designed to be used in your home, where you'll suspend it from the ceiling or in the center of a stable, level table in a room with no wind or tent flaps that could brush against it. When some of us reenact, we bring considerable furniture along -- others make do with a wooden box or two or a trunk. As has been pointed out already on this thread, we're not as conscious of our clothing or the danger when using lighting sources, and it's all too easy for the wind to pick up, or a visitor brush against a box, or a child to nudge a table too hard and have the lamp tip over.

Karin Timour
Period Knitting -- Socks, Sleeping Hats, Balaclavas
Warm. Durable. Documented.
Altantic Guard Soldiers' Aid Society
Email: Ktimour@aol.com