Lighting used in the Wisconsin Lead and Zinc Mines

Candles

   

Candles were the earliest lights. The early lead miners used tallow candles made from animal fat, but they were soft and smoky. Later candles were made of stearin. These burned longer. A miner might use 3 to 6 candles in a day. Early miners used lumps of clay to hold the candles. Miners called the candle holders sticking tommies.

Grease or Oil Lamps

   

Grease or oil lamps like these were made in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Miners used them starting around 1880. You filled the lamp body with the fuel and the wick was in the spout.

Carbide Lamps 

   

 

Carbide lamps were popular from around 1920 to 1950. Carbide lights burn a gas. The miner put water in the top and calcium carbide in the bottom. When the water dripped on the carbide, a flammable gas is formed. The miner struck the flint (wheel in front) to make a spark that lit the gas.

Battery Lamps

 

Starting around the 1940s, miners used battery lamps. The battery is worn at the waist and connected to the light which is hooked on the hardhat. The batteries are recharged each night. Lead is used to make this type of battery.

Sources:
The Mining Museum & Rollo Jamison Museum, 405 E. Main St., Platteville, WI 53818
Miners' Candlesticks, Wendell Wilson & Ted Bobrink, 1984.
American Miners Carbide Lamps, Gregg Clemmer, ill. by Wendell Wilson, 1987.

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