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Lanterns & Candles


The lanterns were used to light the house. Some lanterns had a candle in them. Other lanterns were oil lamps that had a wick, and a well that held coal oil or kerosene. They had a glass chimney to prevent spills of oil. Lanterns with wire handles were used for going outdoors and could also be hung indoors.

A woman is holding a lantern.

Lanterns were essential for settlers to get around their houses and homesteads at nighttime because they didn’t have electricity.

The general store sold lamps, lanterns, and oil (coal oil or kerosene). Not every homesteader could afford to buy an oil lamp or lantern, so the only light in a home without a lantern would come from candles or the fireplace.

A general store with a group of people standing on a wooden deck in front of it. The front of the store has the words 'General Store' and 'Cent's Furnishings' painted on the side of it.

The general store sold lamps, lanterns and oil (coal oil or kerosene), but not every homesteader could afford one.

The inside of this home has a table with a table cloth covering it, a small kids bike, books on a shelf, a lantern hanging from the ceiling, a kitchen stove with a pot on it, a dresser, and other household items being highlighted.

Many settlers used lanterns in their homes for light at nighttime. This photo is a settler’s home in 1919.

Making Candles

Making candles was a messy job and took a long time. Some candles were made from beeswax, but most were made from animal fat (tallow). The fat came from deer, cattle, sheep, pigs, bison, or bears that they had killed for food.

These are the steps settlers used to make candles.

Candle mold.

Candle molds are used to pour the hot fat into so they can harden into candles.

Candles made of certain types of fat had an unpleasant smell when lit. The settlers learned which herbs or spices could be added to the melted fat so the burning candles would not smell so awful.

Candles hang to dry on a wooden stick.

The candles were placed in candlestick holders or in lanterns.

Candle molds were also used to make a few candles at one time. Cords were placed in the molds and melted fat was poured in and left to cool and harden. Next, the wicks were trimmed. More candles could be made this way and it was faster and not as messy.

A young girl is pouring liquid wax into a candle mold. After the wax dries, they can use the candles.

Children often helped to make candles.

Makes candles is a is a long, tedious job.