Jamestown Historical Society

Library Exhibit, January 2022: When Candles Lit the Way

This exhibit has passed. Click here for current exhibits.

Some of the earliest donations to the Jamestown Historical Society collection reflect an age that in 1912 was just ending with the introduction of electricity.

Wick trimmers were already out of date by 1919 when the first wick trimmer was added to the collection. The wicks of candles made of tallow, which was the most common material for everyday candles in the 18th century and early 19th century, had to be carefully trimmed every five to thirty minutes to prevent the burnt part of the wick from falling into the melted tallow pool just below the flame.  By the early 20th century, even before the widespread use of electricity, other sturdier materials were used for candles.

Farm wives would often make their own candles from tallow rendered from the fat of animals slain on the farm.  Using a candle mold such as the one in the collection, she could make twelve tapers at a time.

People walking from place-to-place carried candles with them to see where they were going.  The most common candlestick was a shallow disk with the candle held in place in the middle.  Outdoors a bull-eye lantern, which protected the flame from being blown out and also magnified the light, was used.

The exhibit will remain on display in the Jamestown Philomenian Library foyer until the beginning of February.

Visit the library to see the entire exhibit and please consider donating your Jamestown memorabilia to Jamestown Historical Society, contact info@jamestownhistoricalsociety.org.

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