In the early days the settlers' home was lit by candlelight and the light from the fireplace.

Some people used a "grease lamp". It was a metal bowl filled with tallow (animal fat) and a strip of twisted cloth. The cloth was dipped in melted tallow and burned when it was lit. It did not provide much light and produced alot of smoke.

grease lamp
a grease lamp

MAKING CANDLES was a messy job and took a long time. Some candles were made from beeswax, but most were made from animal fat. The fat came from deer, cattle, sheep, pigs, bison or bears that they had killed for food. The fat was melted in a large iron kettle. The fat had to be boiled in water and strained. Candles made of certain types of fat had an unpleasant smell when lit. The settlers learned which herbs or spices could be added to the melted tallow (fat) so the burning candles would not smell so awful.

Cords were dipped into the pot of hot fat, then cooled and dipped again. This was done over and over till the candle was thick enough. Several cords (string) were hung on a stick or rod so more candles could be made at one time. This job was often given to the children.
dipping candles
Candle moulds were also used to make candles. Cords were placed in the moulds and melted tallow was poured in and left to cool and harden. Then the wicks were trimmed.

More candles could be made this way and it was faster and not as messy.

candle mould

The candles were placed in candlestick holders or in lanterns.

tin lantern candle holder candle holder

Later, candles were replaced by oil lamps. The lamps had a wick, a well that held the oil and a glass chimney. Lanterns with wire handles were used for going outdoors and could also be hung indoors. The general store sold lamps , lanterns and oil (coal oil or kerosene). Not every homesteader could afford to buy an oil lamp or lantern.

oil lamp
oil lamp


| Early days - an introduction | Coming to Canada | Building a home |
| Survival - food & clothing | School, general store, blacksmith |
| Inside a settler's home | Transportation | Fun & games | | Pioneer communities |
| Links | Canada | Web Pages for Students |

web page by J. Giannetta 2004
updated 2011

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