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Oil Lamps, History, and You

Posted by Hampshirepewter on 7/8/2014 to Corporate Gifts

Oil lamps have evolved right alongside mankind as the both of us have explored the world, built empires, watched them crumble, and seeked out new lands.

As far modern man can figure, we first made and used oil lamps as long ago as 8,000 BC. Though these first oil lamps were made out items such as shells and hollowed out shells and rocks, they worked much in the same way that today’s oil lamps still do: producing light through the burning of a wick that had been soaked in oil.

Of course, back then there weren’t any wicks, so archeologists surmise that people years ago used animal skins and moss as wicks and animal fat as the oil. While we gave up using animal skins and moss quite some time ago, it was only within the last century or so that we stopped using animal fat to power our oil lamps. For hundreds of years the fat we used was whale fat.

It was not until around 3,000 BC that mankind began making oil lamps out of manmade materials such as clay and bronze; these were shaped like bowls with an indent for a wick to lay in. Oil lamps did not change much for nearly 5,000 years when in the 1700s, Aime Argand, a Swiss physicist, invented the first cylindrical wick design that produced a long-lasting, smokeless flame that was seven times brighter than a candle. This oil lamp was used by homes and lighthouses throughout the known world for more than a century.

The next major advancement in the oil lamp pathway came about in the 1890s when the Austrian chemist, Baron Carl Freiherr Auer von Welsbach, invented the incandescent mantle and his mantle-impregnating system, that is still used by oil lamps around the world to include the fine pewter oil lamps we offer here.

Although the light bulb was invented soon after the Welsbach made his great contribution to the world, the new oil lamp lighted up homes, roads, bridges, and businesses in small towns and rural areas across the U.S. for many decades. And, when you purchase one of our lovingly-crafted pewter oil lamps, you will be receiving your very own beacon of history.