Flossie’s Fridays: Week 30

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Today, Flossie would like to tell you about this neat piece of glass.  It kind of looks like a vase but it doesn’t have a bottom on it.  You can see there is a candlestick and candle inside.  But why would someone want to put their candle inside a glass cylinder?

Flossie’s too excited to wait for you to guess – it’s called a hurricane lamp (although it isn’t really a lamp as we know them).  A similar type of device was called a hurricane shade, but those hung on a wall, attached by a wall-mounted candlestick.  Wealthy people who were burning candles for light (lots of people didn’t because that was more expensive than burning tallow) could protect the candlelight from puffing out in sudden drafts of air. It is doubtful that doors and windows remained open during storms, but they were often left open in the summer to allow air to flow through the home.  By using the hurricane lamp over your candle, you could be cooler while you read or played a card game with your family without having to worry about the light disappearing!

An author named Lawrence S. Cooke said in his book Lighting in America that these items were first called “India shades” and were used in the 18th and early 19th centuries, probably more in the South than in New England.  By mid to late 19th century (1800s) people were using kerosene for lighting more frequently.  Although most hurricane lamps were clear blown glass, they were sometimes made of colored glass.  Flossie said she would like to see one in amethyst because purple is one of her favorite colors!

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