Early America Lighting, Circa 1565 - 1620 & Beyond

Boneprober

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Dec 11, 2019
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Hi there, my name is Jim aka Boneprober and one day I thought to myself what did our Early settlers do for Lighting once their Hearth died down after their evening meal. Then I also wondered about the chronology of home lighting advances, from say the early 1600's, onward and what they may have been, down through the years.

While I'm sure they had other issues like shelter, heat, cooking, & bedding, I surmise they needed lighting to relax or make the night hours productive after the Sun went down. I imagine they must have brought something with them to the new world, but not sure exactly what.

I graduated from High School in 1960, and I just do not remember "Lighting" ever being a serious topic of conversation back then. Any thoughts or information would be most appreciated. Thanks, Jim
 

KITROBASKIN

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If you like, I could place a link to a Google photo image of a brass whale oil lamp; at least that's what I was told it is. Opening the reservoir shows sludge of some kind as I remember. The Las Golondrinas historical site near Santa Fe New Mexico has live demonstrations of candle making (old school dipping).
 

Boneprober

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If you like, I could place a link to a Google photo image of a brass whale oil lamp; at least that's what I was told it is. Opening the reservoir shows sludge of some kind as I remember. The Las Golondrinas historical site near Santa Fe New Mexico has live demonstrations of candle making (old school dipping).

Hi there; I learned a long, long time ago, that Life's Education starts after High School Graduation, but only if you have an open mind, so of course I'd like to see this Brass Whale oil Lamp. I've learned that Candle Making predated Whale Oil, but that Whale Oil delivered better & brighter light then a simple Candle. However I was never able to determine what the value of light was from a simple Whale Oil Lamp versus how many candles were required to equal the light of a simple Whale oil lamp. So maybe this will aid in jump starting that conversation.

So thank you & happy holidays to you, Jim
 

KITROBASKIN

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Here is the brass whale oil lamp, BP. Any more information you post is most welcome. Glad you are on board.

Late afternoon image with a couple of (if I may say so) classics; Maglite from CPF member Bykfixer and a little gem from Oveready

https://photos.app.goo.gl/YJgq14kps8Fdm8Xj8

Image of lamp with supplemental lighting from a Zebralight SC62 LE. That Oveready, by the way, has the (medium frosted) DIP dropin and a titanium bezel ring; sporting a delrin tailcap and shockcord wrist lanyard.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/hxJzTJPLj6SfDvmy7

And finally an image close-up of the wick area

https://photos.app.goo.gl/Q6LgrkQyJhfzT6QA8
 

Ken_McE

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My town went through a phase where they had a coal gasification plant. Piped the gas around town and used it for lighting.
 

bykfixer

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The gas light thing was pretty cool.

A big rubber disk was raised to the top of the storage tank in daylight and the tank filled with gas. At sundown the rubber disk was allowed to slowly fall, which in turn pushed the gas out to the street lamps. Simple genious it was.
 

wws944

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My town went through a phase where they had a coal gasification plant. Piped the gas around town and used it for lighting.

Coal gas lighting was a big deal in the mid-1900s. When electric lighting was introduced, there were often huge wars at local levels between the existing gas companies and the newfangled electric companies. Electric of course won out. Many gas companies eventually merged with the corresponding electric companies, and the relationships exist to this day.

The oldest coal gas plants were horrible both in terms of the workers health, and ecologically. In fact quite a few of the smaller Superfund sites were locations of long-gone coal gas plants.

I once found an interesting book on all of this at the library. It covered Edison and the invention of the electric light. Can't remember the title offhand.
 

Lumen83

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This thread got me thinking about what people did in places like Alaska where a lot of the year there is a few hours or less of daylight. The first people were there around 15,000 years ago. They had lamps of sorts. But it must have been a much different experience and I'm not sure how much could have actually been done in those conditions. Somehow they managed to survive and thrive under those circumstances. It is funny how we are looking at it in awe of what people did before the electric lamp. When for the absolute vast majority of the human timeline there was no such thing as an electric lamp. This is a relatively recent thing.
 

wws944

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...
Time travelers used LED flashlights, but back then folks said the tint sucked so it didn't catch on until the 21st century...

My avatar and signature are from an old episode of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea". Zar, as played by Robert Duvall, basically time-travelled to the present from a previous, and more advanced, human race that died out. It was a very brief comment in the scene. Yet I was astonished, when watching this old episode from 1965, that they essentially predicted LED lighting. Maybe one of the writers had read a blurb about the discovery of LEDs in some science newsletter at the time? (http://www.vttbots.com/episode_guide_year_1n.html)
 

RedLED

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Rockefeller's Standard Oil Co. produced Kerosene in the late 1800's, and that replaced candles. They also had gasoline as a byproduct, however, there was no use for it as it was too volatile, I think they may have even dumped it in the waterways in Ohio. Of course this being before the internal combustion engine.
 

Ken_McE

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This thread got me thinking about what people did in places like Alaska where a lot of the year there is a few hours or less of daylight. The first people were there around 15,000 years ago. They had lamps of sorts. But it must have been a much different experience and I'm not sure how much could have actually been done in those conditions.

I have seen pictures of old school Inuit oil lamps. It is an open container, not too different than a shallow cup with a ledge on one side. A wick lays on the ledge with one end down in the seal(?) oil.
 

broadgage

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Coal gas was very widely used in the UK from about 1800, until replaced by natural gas in the 1970s.
Gas lights once available spread very rapidly due to being demonstrably so much better than oil lamps and candles.

Electric lighting replaced gas, but gas remained in widespread use until the 1950s, some is STILL in use.
 

broadgage

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Another old lighting technology that was used in America prior to electricity was "hollow wire lighting"
This consisted of a central tank holding gasoline under pressure. This was piped around the building via microbore copper pipes and burnt in incandescent mantle lamps.
The lamps were similar to the liquid fueled lanterns used today for camping or power outages, but with the fuel supplied centrally rather than from a small pressure tank built into the light.
Gasoline under pressure sounds horribly dangerous by todays standards.

Acetylene lighting was also used, a central acetylene generator produced the gas under moderate pressure from where it was piped around the building to be lit. Used in the UK and the USA, and remained popular until electric light was available.
The equipment was simpler than generating ones own electricity.
At least one polar expedition used acetylene lighting to light their base camp.
 
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