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Home > Virtual Village > Virtual Tours > West Springfield Through the Eyes of the Day Family > The Evolution of Lighting

The Evolution of Lighting

Lucinda's Light

The Josiah Day House, inhabited from 1754-1903, witnessed not only road changes but also the evolution of lighting. When Park Street was raised in the 1890’s to allow for trolleys to come over the bridge from Springfield, some houses in the area were affected. The Day House was one of these houses, resulting in the addition of a couple steps to the sidewalk to access the home. Lucinda Day, noted for her thoughtfulness, lit a candle vigilantly every night in the window above the front door so that any visitors might see the added steps.[1]

It is rumored that the candle was lit every night to guide Lucinda’s lost lover home from the sea, although there is no evidence of this. After Lucinda’s death, some claimed to see the candle still lit in the home and that Lucinda’s ghost remained in the house.[2]

Newspaper illustration from an article on Lucinda's supposed lost love. Courtesy of Boston Journal via Genealogy Bank.

EXHIBIT

Each type of lighting had benefits and drawbacks. Candles could be made at home, but their light was yellow and they were very smoky. They also often gave off a small amount of light and burned very inefficiently.[3] These candles, in a house like the Gilbert Farmhouse or Josiah Day House, would be made by dipping them. They would typically make the candles in the kitchen during the wintertime, when it was not so hot and the wax could harden. They were typically made of beeswax or tallow.


Whale oil lamp with double wick and square base.
Josiah Day House Collection
c. 1830-1840s

Kerosene Lamps went through multiple phases from their first time being refined in 1846. Eventually, the bright light was economically available to a wide range of families by the end of the 19th century. Whalers are noted in newspapers discussing the danger that they were encountering by the decreasing lack of demand for whale oil. Even after cities brought in electricity, most families kept their kerosene lamps due to the reliability in case of emergency.[5]
Hand-dipped candles created during Storrowton Village Museum's school programs. Underneath the candles is the top of a mold for pouring rather than dipping candles.

Another alternative type of lighting was found in whale oil lamps. Whale oil created a clean, bright white light, but smelled when burned. Demuth notes, “In the long winters of Boston, New York, Providence and other eastern cities, whale-fueled lamps lit homes and factory floors, streetlamps and the headlights of trains, and guided ships home from lighthouses.”[4] This clean, bright lighting was often preferred by those who could afford it and find it.


Kerosene lamp composed of two glass pieces with a single wick
Josiah Day House Collection
1868

[1] Bagg, W. S. (2022). Brief History of the Day House. Ramapogue Historical Society.
[2] Of the Stormy Sea Two True Romances of the Cruel War. (1897). Boston Journal. Geneology Bank.
[3] Hutchings Museum Institute. Mining: Early Lighting. Google Arts & Culture.
[4] Demuth, B. Harvesting Light: New England Whaling in the Nineteenth Century. Energy History. Yale University.
[5] Sheridan, A. (2020). The History of the Kerosene Lamp. Blog, University Museums. Iowa State University

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