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Semi-opaque Glass Lamp Globe

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Artifact Description

The two glass lamp globes recovered from the wreck site are typical of such wares produced in the mid-19th century, and are generic to the extent that they may have been produced in any number of US glass factories. One potential candiate is the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company of Massachusetts.  Both Globes were likely mold blown . Despite the introduction of the more cost-effective pressing machine, the earlier, mold blown technology remained the preferred method of production for larger glass pieces such as lamp globes.

Both lamps, one a ruby red example and the other semi-opaque as featured here, are slightly dissimilar in shape and style and are without decoration. The accompanying lamp elements, including the brass burners and connectors and glass chimneys and bases were not found at the site. It is quite possible the ship was transporting separate lamp components as cargo—quite common in fact, when glass parts were often produced by different manufacturers than those producing the brass pieces. However, it is also possible that the two lamp globes found at the site were the remaining elements of lamps used aboard ship.

By the mid 1800s the number of glass companies in the US had tripled, and by 1867 most glass factories in the United States were involved in the manufacture of glass lighting devices. The business in fact, had become so immense that many glass houses were entirely devoted to pressing lamp globes, while others concentrated solely on lamp shades and yet others only produced chimneys. 

Lamps produced in the mid-1850s used whale oil, burning fluid and newly introduced kerosene. When the price of whale oil began climbing precipitously, ‘burning fluid,’ became especially popular throughout North America. First patented in 1830, its use spread quickly in the following decade. Derived from high-proof alcohol and redistilled turpentine, ‘burning fluid’ was cheap and produced a white, smokeless flame. Further, the lamps that burned it were relatively simple to make and operate. Yet it was one of the most dangerous fuels ever to gain widespread use. By 1857 over a million gallons of ‘burning fluid’ were manufactured in Philadelphia alone, and sold for about 60 cents a gallon.

By the 1850s kerosene burning fuel was also readily available in the United States with companies such as the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company starting kerosene lamp manufacture at this time. The introduction of kerosene is credited to the Canadian geologist Abraham Gesner, who in 1846 discovered how to produce crude lamp oil from coal. The product, later known as kerosene, was first introduced into the English lighting industry by James Young of Glasgow, Scotland (Barlow & Kaiser, 1989: 43) by a patent he obtained in 1850. His United States patent was issued in 1852, and two years later in 1854, eight thousand gallons of kerosene was being sold weekly in the United States under Young’s patent by the Kerosene Oil Company of Long Island, New York. By this time, Kerosene had become a household word. Safe to use in glass lamps, this new fuel created a demand for them Given the purported 1854 wreck date, it is quite plausible the Jacksonville "Blue China" lamp globes were intended for kerosene.


Other Details

Dimensions:
H. 16.2cm