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Metals (L) - Encylopedia Of Antiques

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LAMPS: No great improvement over the flat, shallow lamps of antiquity made of stone, clay or metal, containing oil in a covered reservoir from which it was drawn by the capillary action of the wick, passing through a small hole to the tip of the ignited wick took place until the end of the 18th century. The earliest lamp in use in this country was the "Betty" lamp, usually made of iron, oval or triangular in form, the basin of which was filled with grease in which a rush or a twisted rag was placed for a wick. At first, the Betty lamp was made with open top. Later, a cover to the oil bowl was added and lamps of that type continued to be in use well into the 18th century. As a rule, the Betty lamp had a hook or chain attached for suspending from a beam in the ceiling or for hanging on the wall. Some of the Betty lamps were made double. The "Phoebe" lamp was similar to the Betty, but with a shallow cup beneath for catching the drippings.

In the latter part of the 17th century pewter lamps for use with sperm (whale) oil were made in a great variety of shapes and sizes, and continued to be used throughout the next century.

Beginning with the 19th century the tin and pewter whale-oil and camphene (q.v.) lamps with two spouts were to be seen in every household until, about the middle of the century, the growing use of glass lamps, which had first appeared about 1820, and were made in many patterns in the following years, gradually displaced them. Many of these glass lamps had patented devices of various kinds to improve the lighting qualities.

A marked advance over the saucershaped lamps toward the modern lamp came with the introduction of the flat wick late in the 18th century, adjusted with a spur wheel, followed by the invention in 1783 of the Argand round burner, which procured a steadier and brighter light. The lamp with a flat wick for kerosene oil came into use about 1865. But the discovery that transformed the whole method of oil lighting was accidental. One of Argand's workmen, in heating a bottle over the open flame, cracked off the bottom and held the remainder in such a way over the flame that it acted as a chimney, and in that manner the lamp chimney came into existence, an improvement in artificial lighting only paralleled by the invention of the electric lamp of modern times. See LIGHTS.

LANTERNS: A receptacle for a light enclosed by some substance which protects it from a draught and permits of reflection. The origin of the lantern is lost in obscurity. It was in use long before the Christian Era and has continued in use ever since. Early lanterns in this country (spelled lanthorn in Colonial days) were of three kinds: hand lanterns, hanging, and wall lanterns. Of these the hand lantern is most frequently seen. The circular type, usually of tin, sometimes of brass, with domed top, punched with holes for the light of the candle to show through, was in use in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of these early lanterns used candles, others had small oil lamps. The later ones were made square in form with sides of glass. The hanging lantern was for use in lighting halls, staircases and corridors, and they were usually made of iron or brass. The wall lanterns were similar in type to the hanging lantern and used for the same purposes. Cheaper examples of bath of these were made in a great variety of shapes and sizes, of tin and japanned. Towards the end of the 18th century lanterns were gradually superseded by lamps, for indoor lighting.

LATCHES, DOOR: Those on early buildings of the English colonists of the 17th century were made by the local blacksmith and, naturally enough, he followed training he had received in England, so that the early English styles persisted for many years. The pear shaped ring, set slightly off center, acted as a door handle, latch, and knocker. In the first quarter of the 18th century a separate door handle with latch was used. It was finely wrought and tapered to fit the hand, and with some variation continued to be used until the modern door-knob was devised. Locks were not used in connection with latches in early times.

LATTEN: (French Laiton) A hard medieval metal made of copper and zinc, much resembling brass. It was formerly used chiefly for making church utensils, but was also used for domestic purposes.

LEAD: This metal was used as an alloy in making pewter, while oxide of lead was employed as a base in fusion with silica or sand in making glass.

LEY (Or Lay) METAL: This was the lowest grade of pewter, consisting of 80 parts of tin and 20 parts of lead. The cheapest was known as black metal, 60 parts of tin and 40 of lead, an inferior product.

LIGHTS: Early lighting was primitive in its character. It is impossible to determine whether candles, which are of great antiquity, or a wick floating in oil was the earlier method of lighting. Candles can be traced back to the beginning of English history. A socket for holding the candle did not become common until the 16th century. Rush lights, the holders for which were crude iron affairs, were in use in England, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, while in this country the pine-knot, aptly called "candlewood," and the "Betty" lamp were among the earliest lighting devices. The introduction of candles was an improvement, especially when they were set in holders with two or more branches or in sconces (q.v.) with reflectors. Candles were a luxury far some time. They were at first made from tallow obtained from wild animals or from beeswax or the wax from the bayberry, and were either dipped or molded. Gradually the use of the hanging or wall lantern (q.v.) developed into the chandelier of the 18th century. This was a frame of metal or wood generally suspended from the ceiling to hold numerous candles. These in England in time, became very elaborate with cut glass or crystal decorations, modeled after those of Versailles. The most famous chandeliers were made in France. The first glass chandelier in this country was made at Pittsburgh in 1810. Later the New England Glass Co. at Cambridge specialized in this form of lighting equipment. Few chandeliers dating previous to 1775 have survived. Lamps of metal or glass in a great variety of forms and sizes gradually gained ascendancy over other forms of home lighting. See ChANDELIERS and LAMPS.

LIGHT FIXTURES: Candle fittings of the 17th and 18th centuries may be placed in three classes, viz.: the candlestick and the candelabrum; the candle fitting that hung on the wall, the lantern and the sconce; those that were suspended from the ceiling, or the lantern and the chandelier.

LOCKS: Locks are of ancient origin. In Rome they were made of bronze or iron. During the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, ingenious and complicated locks, ornamented with hammered ironwork, were made and the locks in use up to the beginning of the 19th century were all on the same spring-lock principle of the earlier locks. Mortise locks were introduced about the middle of the 18th century. In the 19th century invention of the tumbler lock and the cylinder lock brings us to the modern locks.

LOVING-CUP: Another name for the caudle-cup (q.v.), a generic name for presentation cups.