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



April 24, 1852


Sat 1852

April 24  Mrs Ames returned last night I came

from Boston to night.  Like my things pretty well

have bought me some bronze candelabras

drugget a lot of gentlemans hose &c &c

Got through with my shopping about three

and went to Mr Orrs.  Lucia Harris is

there Mrs Witherell & Ames came to see my

things in the evening

The bronze candleabras that Evelina bought in Boston today were purchased, in all likelihood, for the parlor. They were a formal throwback to the time when candles were used for lighting, which was the period that began when the Pilgrims first arrived and lasted to the early part of the 19th century.  By 1852, however, oil lamps and very soon, kerosene lamps, were becoming standard fare for lighting. They were more economical than candles.

Burning candles, then, was something of a “retro” effort that honored the grace and warmth of the familiar candlestick, and suggested that the homeowner had enough money to burn candles if he so chose. No smudgy little whale oil lamp for the parlor or the dinner table, though oil lamps of varying styles and efficiency might operate in the rest of the house. In the room in which company was entertained, the candleabras would glow, and brag.

Both sisters-in-law came over at the end of the day to see what Evelina had bought, and it’s hard to imagine they were interested in the “gentlemans hose &c.” They came over to check out the new candleabras.