November 20, 1852


Boston Music Hall, 1852*


Sat Nov 20th  I have been puttering about

house all day again  scoured the solar lamp

with acid & whiting and it took a long

while to get the varnish off  Miss Sarah

& Jane Burrell came here with their 

brother and stopt about two hours I

went with them to the new shop

The solar lamp that Evelina polished today was probably the most modern lighting in the whole house. Solar lamps, so called because their “illumination was thought to be comparable to sunlight”**, had a “central draft Argand burner with a spiral wick raiser” and a deflector cap that drew more oxygen to the flame. These were fine points for table lamps that still used whale oil but would soon use Kerosene, and which had pretty well replaced candlesticks in the homes of most settled communities.

Many solar lamps were made by Henry N. Hooper & Company of Boston.  Hooper ran a foundry that made lighting fixtures and bells and, during the Civil War, also made artillery for the Union Army. As a young man, Hooper had begun his career working in a foundry for Paul Revere. What changes he saw!

Other changes were afoot. The Boston Music Hall opened in the city on this date on Winter Street and Hamilton Place. It was paid for by the Harvard Musical Association, a group of Harvard graduates dedicated to promoting music. The Handel and Haydn Society played the inaugural concert and, three decades later, the site became the first home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The hall was also used for lectures, and hosted a huge gathering of abolitionists on December 31,1862 to celebrate the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Tubman were among the many who attended.*

*Wikipedia, accessed November 16, 2015

**Gerald T. Gowitt, 19th Century Elegant Lighting, Schiffer, 2002



5 thoughts on “November 20, 1852

  1. Were they in the years of peak whale oil consumption? Your reminder that in just ten years, things would have progressed as far into the Civil War as the post-Battle of Antietam Emancipation Proclamation, shows just what hectiic years lie just ahead.

  2. As far as I know, kerosene got to the market in 1854, so in 1852, whale oil still dominated home lighting for those who could afford it.

  3. Found out just the other day during some Abraham Lincoln research that Sen Charles Sumner delivered a eulogy for Lincoln at the Music Hall:
    ” “The cornerstone of National Independence is already in its place, and on it is inscribed the name of GEORGE WASHINGTON. There is another stone which must have its place at the corner also. This is the great Declaration (of Independence) itself, once a promise only, at last a reality. On this admantine stone we will gratefully inscribe the name of ABRAHAM LINCOLN.”

    – Eulogy delivered by Senator Charles Sumner at the Boston Music Hall, June 1, 1865

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