When our people first came to Nebraska candles were still in use
to a great extent. There was also the "fat lamp" a sort
of saucer, a smoky affair. Quite a number of years later there were
a few "coal oil" lamps. People were rather slow at using
them, as they feared they would explode, and a few of them did.
Rebecca and Sophia (my mother and aunt), when they were grown up
young ladies, had a very small lamp, which they prized very much.
It gave little more light than a candle but they felt quite independent
and well equipped so far as lights were concerned.
So candle making was another of the many jobs the housewife and
her daughters did. The molds were of different types. Uncle Sam's
had one that was made of brass and hinged, half the candle was on
one side and half on the other. Tallow was poured into the molds
and when hardened the wicking was laid in place and a little more
tallow poured on and the two halves clamped together to make the
When Adah was a little girl they still used candles in all the
rooms in the house except the dining room where they had a wonderful
hanging lamp, which burned coal oil. This had been given to Uncle
Sam and Aunt Lizzie as a wedding gift.
There was another type of candle mold, many of which are now cherished
family heirlooms. These were made of tin, a sort of frame top and
bottom, with hollow tubes so arranged that the base of the candle
was at the top and a small hole at the tip on the bottom. A sort
of loosely twisted cotton cord was used for the wicks. A length
of candle wicking the threaded through this hole at the top end
of the tube and a knot on the outside helped keep the melted fat
from leaking out and also allowed the wick to be pulled taut and
held in place by fastening it to a stick at the base end. Melted
tallow, beef fat, was then poured into the molds and allowed to
harden. If they were fortunate enough to have some beeswax it was
mixed with the melted tallow. The made the candles more firm and
whey burned nicer and much longer.
Jake (my father) told me he remembered many evenings when the
after supper work was over and the family gathered around the table
for evening sewing, knitting, mending, and studying of the lessons.
His father nipped out all the candles but one, saying it was extravagant
and wasteful to burn more than one.
The family wasn't small
how could they all see with this
one candle? Nowadays when electricity goes off and we must resort
to candle light, we just go to bed declaring we can't see by so
faint a light.