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The first and most natural way of lighting the houses of the American colonists, both in the North and South, was by the pine-knots of the fat pitch-pine, which, of course, were found everywhere in the greatest plenty in the forests. Governor John Winthrop the younger, in his communication to the English Royal Society in 1662, said this candle-wood was much used for domestic illumination in Virginia, New York, and New England.

It was doubtless gathered everywhere in new settlements, as it has been in pioneer homes till our own day. In Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont it was used till this century. In the Southern states the pine-knots are still burned in humble households for lighting purposes, and a very good light they furnish.

The historian Wood wrote in 1642, in his _New England's Prospect_:--

     "Out of these Pines is gotten the Candlewood that is much spoke of, which may serve as a shift among poore folks, but I cannot commend it for singular good, because it droppeth a pitchy kind of substance where it stands."

That pitchy kind of substance was tar, which was one of the most valuable trade products of the colonists. So much tar was made by burning the pines on the banks of the Connecticut, that as early as 1650 the towns had to prohibit the using of candle-wood for tar-making if gathered within six miles of the Connecticut River, though it could be gathered by families for illumination and fuel.

Rev. Mr. Higginson, writing in 1633, said of these pine-knots:--

     "They are such candles as the Indians commonly use, having no other, and they are nothing else but the wood of the pine tree, cloven in two little slices, something thin, which are so full of the moysture of turpentine and pitch that they burne as cleere as a torch."

To avoid having smoke in the room, and on account of the pitchy droppings, the candle-wood was usually burned in a corner of the fireplace, on a flat stone. The knots were sometimes called pine-torches. One old Massachusetts minister boasted at the end of his life that every sermon of the hundreds he had written, had been copied by the light of these torches. Rev. Mr. Newman, of Rehoboth, is said to have compiled his vast concordance of the Bible wholly by the dancing light of this candle-wood. Lighting was an important item of expense in any household of so small an income as that of a Puritan minister; and the single candle was often frugally extinguished during the long family prayers each evening. Every family laid in a good supply of this light wood for winter use, and it was said that a prudent New England farmer would as soon start the winter without hay in his barn as without candle-wood in his woodshed.

Mr. Higginson wrote in 1630: "Though New England has no tallow to make candles of, yet by abundance of fish thereof it can afford oil for lamps." This oil was apparently wholly neglected, though there were few, or no domestic animals to furnish tallow; but when cattle increased, every ounce of tallow was saved as a precious and useful treasure; and as they became plentiful it was one of the household riches of New England, which was of value to our own day. When Governor Winthrop arrived in Massachusetts, he promptly wrote over to his wife to bring candles with her from England when she came. And in 1634 he sent over for a large quantity of wicks and tallow. Candles cost fourpence apiece, which made them costly luxuries for the thrifty colonists.

Wicks were made of loosely spun hemp or tow, or of cotton; from the milkweed which grows so plentifully in our fields and roads to-day the children gathered in late summer the silver "silk-down" which was "spun grossly into candle wicke." Sometimes the wicks were dipped into saltpetre.

Thomas Tusser wrote in England in the sixteenth century in his _Directions to Housewifes_:--

      "Wife, make thine own candle, Spare penny to handle. Provide for thy tallow ere frost cometh in, And make thine own candle ere winter begin."

Every thrifty housewife in America saved her penny as in England. The making of the winter's stock of candles was the special autumnal household duty, and a hard one too, for the great kettles were tiresome and heavy to handle. An early hour found the work well under way. A good fire was started in the kitchen fireplace under two vast kettles, each two feet, perhaps, in diameter, which were hung on trammels from the lug-pole or crane, and half filled with boiling water and melted tallow, which had had two scaldings and skimmings. At the end of the kitchen or in an adjoining and cooler room, sometimes in the lean-to, two long poles were laid from chair to chair or stool to stool. Across these poles were placed at regular intervals, like the rounds of a ladder, smaller sticks about fifteen or eighteen inches long, called candle-rods. These poles and rods were kept from year to year, either in the garret or up on the kitchen beams.

To each candle-rod was attached about six or eight carefully straightened candle-wicks. The wicking was twisted strongly one way; then doubled; then the loop was slipped over the candle-rod, when the two ends, of course, twisted the other way around each other, making a firm wick. A rod, with its row of wicks, was dipped in the melted tallow in the pot, and returned to its place across the poles. Each row was thus dipped in regular turn; each had time to cool and harden between the dips, and thus grew steadily in size. If allowed to cool fast, they of course grew quickly, but were brittle, and often cracked. Hence a good worker dipped slowly, but if the room was fairly cool, could make two hundred candles for a day's work. Some could dip two rods at a time. The tallow was constantly replenished, as the heavy kettles were used alternately to keep the tallow constantly melted, and were swung off and on the fire. Boards or sheets of paper were placed under the rods to protect the snowy, scoured floors.

Candles were also run in moulds which were groups of metal cylinders, usually made of tin or pewter. Itinerant candle-makers went from house to house, taking charge of candle-making in the household, and carrying large candle-moulds with them. One of the larger size, making two dozen candles, is here shown; but its companion, the smaller mould, making six candles, is such as were more commonly seen. Each wick was attached to a wire or a nail placed across the open top of the cylinder, and hung down in the centre of each individual mould. The melted tallow was poured in carefully around the wicks.

Wax candles also were made. They were often shaped by hand, by pressing bits of heated wax around a wick. Farmers kept hives of bees as much for the wax as for the honey, which was of much demand for sweetening, when "loaves" of sugar were so high-priced. Deer suet, moose fat, bear's grease, all were saved in frontier settlements, and carefully tried into tallow for candles. Every particle of grease rescued from pot liquor, or fat from meat, was utilized for candle-making. Rushlights were made by stripping part of the outer bark from common rushes, thus leaving the pith bare, then dipping them in tallow or grease, and letting them harden.

The precious candles thus tediously made were taken good care of. They were carefully packed in candle-boxes with compartments; were covered over, and set in a dark closet, where they would not discolor and turn yellow. A metal candle-box, hung on the edge of the kitchen mantel-shelf, always held two or three candles to replenish those which burnt out in the candlesticks.

A natural, and apparently inexhaustible, material for candles was found in all the colonies in the waxy berries of the bayberry bush, which still grows in large quantities on our coasts. In the year 1748 a Swedish naturalist, Professor Kalm, came to America, and he wrote an account of the bayberry wax which I will quote in full:--

     "There is a plant here from the berries of which they make a kind of wax or tallow, and for that reason the Swedes call it the tallow-shrub. The English call the same tree the candle-berry tree or bayberry bush; it grows abundantly in a wet soil, and seems to thrive particularly well in the neighborhood of the sea. The berries look as if flour had been strewed on them. They are gathered late in Autumn, being ripe about that time, and are thrown into a kettle or pot full of boiling water; by this means their fat melts out, floats at the top of the water, and may be skimmed off into a vessel; with the skimming they go on till there is no tallow left. The tallow, as soon as it is congealed, looks like common tallow or wax, but has a dirty green color. By being melted over and refined it acquires a fine and transparent green color. This tallow is dearer than common tallow, but cheaper than wax. Candles of this do not easily bend, nor melt in summer as common candles do; they burn better and slower, nor do they cause any smoke, but yield rather an agreeable smell when they are extinguished. In Carolina they not only make candles out of the wax of the berries, but likewise sealing-wax."

Beverley, the historian of Virginia, wrote of the smell of burning bayberry tallow:--

     "If an accident puts a candle out, it yields a pleasant fragrancy to all that are in the room; insomuch that nice people often put them out on purpose to have the incense of the expiring snuff."

Bayberry wax was not only a useful home-product, but an article of traffic till this century, and was constantly advertised in the newspapers. In 1712, in a letter written to John Winthrop, F.R.S., I find:--

     "I am now to beg one favour of you,--that you secure for me all the bayberry wax you can possibly put your hands on. You must take a care they do not put too much tallow among it, being a custom and cheat they have got."

Bayberries were of enough importance to have some laws made about them. Everywhere on Long Island grew the stunted bushes, and everywhere they were valued. The town of Brookhaven, in 1687, forbade the gathering of the berries before September 15, under penalty of fifteen shillings' fine.

The pungent and unique scent of the bayberry, equally strong in leaf and berry, is to me one of the elements of the purity and sweetness of the air of our New England coast fields in autumn. It grows everywhere, green and cheerful, in sun-withered shore pastures, in poor bits of earth on our rocky coast, where it has few fellow field-tenants to crowd the ground. It is said that the highest efforts of memory are stimulated through our sense of smell, by the association of ideas with scents. That of bayberry, whenever I pass it, seems to awaken in me an hereditary memory, to recall a life of two centuries ago. I recall the autumns of trial and of promise in our early history, and the bayberry fields are peopled with children in Puritan garb, industriously gathering the tiny waxen fruit. Equally full of sentiment is the scent of my burning bayberry candles, which were made last autumn in an old colony town.

The history of whale-fishing in New England is the history of one of the most fascinating commercial industries the world has ever known. It is a story with every element of intense interest, showing infinite romance, adventure, skill, courage, and fortitude. It brought vast wealth to the communities that carried on the fishing, and great independence and comfort to the families of the whalers. To the whalemen themselves it brought incredible hardships and dangers, yet they loved the life with a love which is strange to view and hard to understand. In the oil made from these "royal fish" the colonists found a vast and cheap supply for their metal and glass lamps; while the toothed whales had stored in their blunt heads a valuable material which was at once used for making candles; it is termed, in the most ancient reference I have found to it in New England records, Sperma-Coeti.

It was asserted that one of these spermaceti candles gave out more light than three tallow candles, and had four times as big a flame. Soon their manufacture and sale amounted to large numbers, and materially improved domestic illumination.

All candles, whatever their material, were carefully used by the economical colonists to the last bit by a little wire frame of pins and rings called a save-all. Candle-sticks of various metals and shapes were found in every house; and often sconces, which were also called candle-arms, or prongs. Candle-beams were rude chandeliers, a metal or wooden hoop with candle-holders. Snuffers were always seen, with which to trim the candles, and snuffers trays. These were sometimes exceedingly richly ornamented, and were often of silver: extinguishers often accompanied the snuffers.

Though lamps occasionally appear on early inventories and lists of sales, and though there was plenty of whale and fish oil to burn, lamps were not extensively used in America for many years. "Betty-lamps," shaped much like antique Roman lamps, were the earliest form. They were small, shallow receptacles, two or three inches in diameter and about an inch in depth; either rectangular, oval, round, or triangular in shape, with a projecting nose or spout an inch or two long. They usually had a hook and chain by which they could be hung on a nail in the wall, or on the round in the back of a chair; sometimes there was also a smaller hook for cleaning out the nose of the lamp. They were filled with tallow, grease, or oil, while a piece of cotton rag or coarse wick was so placed that, when lighted, the end hung out on the nose. From this wick, dripping dirty grease, rose a dull, smoky, ill-smelling flame.

Phoebe-lamps were similar in shape; though some had double wicks, that is, a nose at either side. Three betty-lamps are shown in the illustration: all came from old colonial houses. The iron lamp, solid with the accumulated grease of centuries, was found in a Virginia cabin; the rectangular brass lamp came from a Dutch farmhouse; and the graceful oval brass lamp from a New England homestead.

Pewter was a favorite material for lamps, as it was for all other domestic utensils. It was specially in favor for the lamps for whale oil and the "Porter's fluid," that preceded our present illuminating medium, petroleum. A rare form is the pewter lamp here shown. It is in the collection of ancient lamps, lanterns, candlesticks, etc., owned by Mrs. Samuel Bowne Duryea, of Brooklyn. It came from a Salem home, where it was used as a house-lantern. With its clear bull's-eyes of unusually pure glass, it gave what was truly a brilliant light for the century of its use. A group of old pewter lamps, of the shapes commonly used in the homes of our ancestors a century or so ago, is also given; chosen, not because they were unusual or beautiful, but because they were universal in their use.

The lamps of Count Rumford's invention were doubtless a great luxury, with their clear steady light; but they were too costly to be commonly seen in our grandfathers' homes. Nor were Argand burners ever universal. Glass lamps of many simple shapes shared popularity for a long time with the pewter lamps; and as pewter gradually disappeared from household use, these glass lamps monopolized the field. They were rarely of cut or colored glass, but were pressed glass of commonplace form and quality. A group of them is here given which were all used in old New England houses in the early part of this century.

For many years the methods of striking a light were very primitive, just as they were in Europe; many families possessed no adequate means, or very imperfect ones. If by ill fortune the fire in the fireplace became wholly extinguished through carelessness at night, some one, usually a small boy, was sent to the house of the nearest neighbor, bearing a shovel or covered pan, or perhaps a broad strip of green bark, on which to bring back coals for relighting the fire. Nearly all families had some form of a flint and steel,--a method of obtaining fire which has been used from time immemorial by both civilized and uncivilized nations. This always required a flint, a steel, and a tinder of some vegetable matter to catch the spark struck by the concussion of flint and steel. This spark was then blown into a flame. Among the colonists scorched linen was a favorite tinder to catch the spark of fire; and till this century all the old cambric handkerchiefs, linen underwear, and worn sheets of a household were carefully saved for this purpose. The flint, steel, and tinder were usually kept together in a circular tinder-box, such as is shown in the accompanying illustration; it was a shape universal in England and America. This had an inner flat cover with a ring, a flint, a horseshoe-shaped steel, and an upper lid with a place to set a candle-end in, to carry the newly acquired light. Though I have tried hundreds of times with this tinder-box, I have never yet succeeded in striking a light. The sparks fly, but then the operation ceases in modern hands. Charles Dickens said if you had good luck, you could get a light in half an hour. Soon there was an improvement on this tinder-box, by which sparks were obtained by spinning a steel wheel with a piece of cord, somewhat like spinning a humming top, and making the wheel strike a flint fixed in the side of a little trough full of tinder. This was an infinite advance in convenience on tinder-box No. 1. This box was called in the South a mill; one is here shown. Then some person invented strips of wood dipped in sulphur and called "spunks." These readily caught fire, and retained it, and were handy to carry light to a candle or pile of chips.

Another way of starting a fire was by flashing a little powder in the pan of an old-fashioned gun; sometimes this fired a twist of tow, which in turn started a heap of shavings.

Down to the time of our grandfathers, and in some country homes of our fathers, lights were started with these crude elements,--flint, steel, tinder,--and transferred by the sulphur splint; for fifty years ago matches were neither cheap nor common.

Though various processes for lighting in which sulphur was used in a match shape, were brought before the public at the beginning of this century, they were complicated, expensive, and rarely seen. The first practical friction matches were "Congreves," made in England in 1827. They were thin strips of wood or cardboard coated with sulphur and tipped with a mixture of mucilage, chlorate of potash, and sulphide of antimony. Eighty-four of them were sold in a box for twenty-five cents, with a piece of "glass-paper" through which the match could be drawn. There has been a long step this last fifty years between the tinder-box used so patiently for two centuries, and the John Jex Long match-making machine of our times, which turns out seventeen million matches a day.