Fire has been the source of light since the beginning of mankind. As the years progressed, smaller burning devices like candles were used to light the way.
Candles have always been part of the United States Heritage. In fact, candles formed an essential part of day-to-day tasks because before the invention of the light bulb. People relied on candlelight to see in the dark.
Let’s dive right in!
In the early ages
In the early years, roughly 3,000BCE, the Egyptians were credited for making the “rushlight” otherwise known as a miniature candle. It didn’t have a wick like a traditional candle does, but instead, pithy stalks were dipped in either plant or animal fat, and then the end could be lit by fire.
1500 BCE Babylonian lamps were made with sesame and olive oil. These lamps used linen as a wick and placed inside terracotta or metal shells. More of a flat cup-like shape, one section would house the oil and the other the linen wick.
Then came the Romans in an estimated 100CE and invented the Tallow Lamp. These are candles with a wick, but animal fat is used instead of traditional candle wax.
Middle ages and candles
During the Middle Ages, candles were preferably crafted with beeswax as opposed to animal fat. The beeswax was cleaner when it burnt and didn’t produce the same black smoke. Alas, while beeswax seemed better than animal fat, it cost a pretty penny.
During the Middle Ages, only the wealthy could afford to have such lavish candles to light up their homes. The poor folks resort to tallow candles which they DIY made. It wasn’t long then, that candle-making became a source of income and a business for “chandlers.”
The candle makers would sometimes go from house to house and make candles onsite for their customers. Sometimes the candle makers also made candles and sold them from their workshop.
Colonial times and candle development
The colonial-era saw the traditional candle evolve from animal fat to other sustainable resources.
Bayberry bushes were lovely smelling and when their berries were boiled in water, they gave off wax residue. In the colonial era, women made these candles with bayberry wax, and the scent, when burnt, was welcoming and also didn’t emit harsh smoke and smells. The process was difficult and tiresome, and this led to the bayberry candle wax quickly fading away and being less popular compared to tallow lamps, beeswax candles, and spermaceti candles.
The spermaceti candles were made from the fat of the sperm whale. The process included having to crystalize the oil first.
In the 20th Century
Paraffin candles were produced in higher quantities and became the standard type of candle. But because of the harshness of the paraffin chemicals, later alternatives include soybean wax candles which burn slower and last longer than the paraffin type.
Candles are symbolic of setting a romantic mood or providing light during a power outage. They can be used in modern lanterns and just sets a calming mood overall.
The Bayberry candle still remains dear to many Americans. The sentimental value that it brings to families makes it a popular choice of candle to burn around the holidays and thanksgiving. While most of these bayberry candles are no longer the original ones made from bayberries, they are scented with essential oil to mimic the actual aroma.