Oil Lamp

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Object Name: 
Oil Lamp
Accession Number: 
Overall H: 14.9 cm, Diam (max): 9 cm
On Display
Credit Line: 
Purchased with funds from the Westchester Glass Club and Marvion E. and Esther Ashburn
Web Description: 
Oil lamps were common lighting devices found in American homes in the early and mid-19th century. They most frequently burned whale oil or lard oil. Fitted metal or cork collars supported one or two wicks at the opening of the font and could be removed to replenish the oil. This constant handling led to frequent breakage. This lamp features a marriage of glassmaking techniques: a hand-blown font was joined to a pressed base. Before the development of mechanical pressing in the late 1820s, fonts and bases were usually blown, although bases were occasionally pressed with hand tools. The new pressing technology satisfied a design challenge—creating a sturdy base for less frequent breakage—and both accelerated the output and lowered the cost of a common household item. The Museum owns many pressed lamps, but this lamp’s base was pressed in a rare pattern previously unrepresented in the collection. Massachusetts was not only an important location for industrial glassmaking but also the center of the lucrative whaling industry in America from the late 17th to early 20th centuries. Whale oil for lighting was the primary commodity from whale hunting; however, certain types of whales were also prized for their baleen, which was used for corset stays, parasol handles, and hoop skirts. The near-annihilation of the whale population in the North Atlantic sent American whaling ships farther asea, and the cost of whale oil soared as a result. Soon, the development of cheaper fuels lessened consumer demand and precipitated the decline of whaling. Glass companies adapted quickly, reducing production of whale oil lamps and shifting to supply the market with shades and chimneys for lamps designed to burn kerosene and natural gas. Unsigned. Unpublished. For more information on comparable lamps made by the union of blown and pressed glass, see Kenneth M. Wilson, American Glass, 1760–1930: The Toledo Museum of Art, New York: Hudson Hills Press in association with the museum, 1994, v. 1, pp. 265–285.
Simmonds, Ian, Source
Primary Description: 
Oil Lamp. Colorless glass; blown, pressed. Whale oil lamp with blown inverted pear-shaped font, solid stem with bladed knop, and pressed terraced foot in unnamed pattern.
The Corning Museum of Glass: Notable Acquisitions 2013 (2014) illustrated, p. 23 (#13);
Notes: Corning Museum Adds Major Work to Glass, Library Collections (2014) illustrated, p. 379, #10; BIB# AI100158