Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: Colors of Household Candles?

  1. #1

    Default Colors of Household Candles?

    I can't believe I've never thought about this question before in all the years I've reenacted: Did they use colored candles back in the day? If so, what colors were popular?
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Kenosha Wisconsin
    Posts
    572

    Default Candles

    Rob that is a good question. I use a candle lantern for evening tours or to set outside of our tent. ( Yes, we are a mainstream group )

    I have purchased white or off white or close to a light yelllow as i can..I use the light yellow to represent beeswax candles. We go through quite a few candles in a season and i do not want to pay over two dollars or more a piece for a natural beeswax candle.

    i do not use the tapered variety and at thrift stores or yard sales, you can find a whole bag of candles for a dollar or so.

    I have treid to stay away from the blues and reds, ect. but i would be interested in finding out more information if actually colored candles would have been used.
    Richard Schimenti

  3. #3

    Default

    I looked through 2 of my period cookbooks looking for clues, and found nothing. Did churches use colored candles prior to the 20th century? I must have asked a question that no one's addressed yet, because nobody's jumped on it.
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Burke, VA
    Posts
    298

    Default Colored candles

    I haven't researched the topic and Virginia isn't here this weekend (taking a class) but I strongly doubt they used colored candles. After all, they were using candles as a light source and not a decorative accessory. They were probably more concerned with the candle not flopping or flaring (as tallow can do) or dripping all over everything. Now their candlesticks could be highly decorative!

    I can't speak for other denominations but I think Catholic practice calls for beeswax candles (purity of the product and all that) and coloring would also seem to be an adulteration.

    As far as candles are concerned, I looked in Virginia's book, Historic Accounts, which is a searchable database for a rural store in Halifax County, Virginia, (1859 - late 1861) for candles. There were 18 pages of entries for candles. Of the candles purchased, the overwhelming number were for adamantine. Without doing an exact nose count, the next most common type were tallow, followed by sperm candles. There wasn't a single instance of beeswax being sold in the store during almost three years so I'd guess they were only available from home manufacture.

    By the time of the civil war, some items were becoming manufactured. Why spend all day dipping beeswax (and you usually have to dip beeswax instead of using molds) when you could buy candles inexpensively at the store. If you do make candles, you can use a mold for tallow which is available during butchering time.

    So in choosing a candle, I'd recommend the adamantine first. We carry those in our sutlery, Ragged Soldier Sutlery, and for the poster who said he tries to keep his beeswax candle under $2, the adamantine candles are much less and last 6-7 hours. We can document not only the material but the shape. Paraffin candles are of questionable authenticity and droop horribly if the sun shines on your lantern during the summer.

    Michael Mescher
    Michael Mescher
    visit us at:
    Ragged Soldier Sutlery
    www.raggedsoldier.com

  5. #5

    Default

    My hunch is that you're right. I've steered toward white, beeswax yellow, off-white, etc candles for years, except for a beeswax candle I once owned that was dark brown and looked just like doggy-do with a wick. I don't make my own candles anymore, although I have. I believe only the very rural or very frugal were still making their own in the 1860s. It just occurred to me that I was steering toward those neutral colors and didn't really know why.
    Catholic liturgical candles are 100% beeswax to this day, and are white as a symbol of purity (with the exception, obviously, of Advent candles. But those experienced a renaissance in the 1960s and 1970s.)
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    16

    Default Beeswax and molds

    To all,
    I make about 400 candles a year, I use only beeswax and tallow. I also mix tallow and beeswax, but I mostly like to keep things pure and tallow is unpleasent in odor during it production.
    All of of my candles are molded and not dipped. There are no secrets to molding candles with beeswax, just ensure that you have good clean wax and good clean molds. Another thing to remember much like making soap the longer the candle sits the harder it becomes, this makes removing from the mold easier.
    YOS,
    Christian Fisher
    Assistant Surgeon
    CMF

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Burke, VA
    Posts
    170

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Weaver
    I can't believe I've never thought about this question before in all the years I've reenacted: Did they use colored candles back in the day? If so, what colors were popular?
    I realize that Mike answered this question at some length but I'm home now and can answer with some additional information.

    Yes, they did have colored candles but they were not used as common household candles until later in the century. It was not until 1888 that I found an etiquette book stating that the dining-room could be lit with white or colored candles. (_The Correct Thing in Good Society_).

    Earlier mentions of colored candles were in reference to them being on Christmas trees (1856, 1857), and in some religious ceremonies (1864).

    In 1853, colored candles were exhibited at the New York Exhibition. As early as 1854, there were references for how to make colored candles. _The New York Journal of Pharmacy_ (1854) stated that spermaceti candles were "often colored red, green, blue, and yellow, and are known as colored candles." By the 1870s after the aniline dyes were perfected they were used to color candles but before they were used, metallic oxides and vegetable dyes were used to color the candles.

    The March 15, 1862 issue of _Scientific American_ published a short article asking the question that since wax candles are made of different colors, but omit a white light why couldn't someone produce a candle that could have a colored flame.

    The colors of regular period candles would vary. Tallow would depend upon the purity and type of tallow used and if there were any additives included to harden the tallow. I have seen tallow candles vary from a creamy white to a dirty greenish tan. Beeswax would either be a golden color (unbleached) or a warm white (bleached); spermaceti candles were a warm to bright white depending upon the purity; and adamantine or sterine were the whitest but could still be a warm white. Although I have not seen a period paraffine candle, paraffine was described as being white but the candles tended to have a mottled appearance. Modern paraffin is not the same as period paraffine.

    I hope this helps.
    Virginia Mescher
    Visit us at www.raggedsoldier.com
    www.vintagevolumes.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Burke, VA
    Posts
    170

    Default candles

    There is now a comprehensive article on the types of candles available in the mid-19th century on our website. It covers the candle making process as well as all types of candles and what types the military used.

    The link to the article is http://www.raggedsoldier.com/candle_article.pdf but if that doesn't work, go to www.raggedsoldier.com and click on Virginia's Veranda and go to the current article.
    Virginia Mescher
    Visit us at www.raggedsoldier.com
    www.vintagevolumes.com

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •