Treasure #50 Whale Oil Lamp

Whale oil lamp

Whale oil lamp

This pewter lamp, which burned whale oil, was used in 19th century cotton factories. Employers demanded 12 hours of labor from everyone and there simply wasn’t enough available daylight in fall and winter. Therefore, the “Lighting Up” occurred annually on September 21 when lamps like this were installed on every loom. The mill girls then endured fumes, soot, burns, and smoke generated by these lamps until springtime. Respiratory illnesses and worsening eyesight were common. No wonder, then, that the “Lighting Up” was a contributing factor in the first strike in the U.S. by women —and it happened in Dover NH at the Cocheco Manufacturing Company on December 30, 1828!

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