Gaslighting in America
A Guide for Historic Preservation
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Astonishingly little has been written on the subject of gaslighting during the last 50 or 60 years. Compared with the amount of material published on lamps and candlesticks, the material on gas fixtures has been practically nil. It has, therefore, been necessary to include many rare and out-of-print books in this bibliography. This bibliography has been restricted to those works that proved most useful for research. Other publications of more peripheral interest have been included in the notes.

Accum, Fredrick. A Practical Treatise, on Gas-Light, Exhibiting a Summary Description of the Apparatus and Machinery Best Calculated for Illuminating Streets, Houses, and Manufactories with Carburetted Hydrogen, or Coal-Gas; with Remarks on the Utility, Safety, and General Nature of this new Branch of Civil Economy. London: R. Ackermanin, 1815.

This rare and handsomely illustrated work by Friedrich Christian Accum (1768-1838) is the first major publication on gaslighting in any language.

The American Gas-Light Journal, 1859—

This precursor of the American Gas Journal began publication on July 1, 1859, and is the most comprehensive source for technical reports on developments in its field starting from 1859.

Archer and Warner. A Familiar Treatise on Candles, Lamps and Gas Lights; with Incidental Matters, Prepared for the Use of Their Customers, by Archer and Warner, Manufacturers of Gas Fixtures, Chandeliers, Lamps, Girandoles, &c. Philadelphia,[1850].

This promotional pamphlet, not a catalogue, is perhaps the earliest extant publication by an American manufacturer of gas fixtures.

Artistic Houses, 2 vols. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1883-1884.

This work contains many excellent views of American interiors of the post-Civil War era.

Benjamin, Park, ed. Appletons' Cyclopaedia of Applied Mechanics: A Dictionary of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanical Arts. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1880.

Contains one of the best and most complete articles on gas technology of its period in any American publication.

Chandler, Dean. Outline of History of Lighting by Gas. [London, South Metropolitan Gas Company, 1936].

Technical and historical information on the development of gaslighting in Great Britain.

Cornelius and Baker. Description of the Establishment of Cornelius and Baker, Manufacturers of Lamps, Chandeliers and Gas Fixtures, Philadelphia. Philadelphia: J.B. Chandler, 1860.

An important historical document; it describes the manufacturing processes of the firm in considerable detail.

Cornelius and Company. Examples of Gas Fixtures and Other Metal Work for Ecclesiastical and Domestic Use. Designed after the Manner of Mediaeval Art Works by J. M. Beesley. Philadelphia, [1877].

The only known copy of this work is catalogued in the Library of Congress but is presently missing.

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1855—

This major weekly is a prime source for pictures of American interiors, particularly interiors of public buildings, and their lighting fixtures from 1855 to about the end of the gaslighting era.

Freedley, Edwin T. Philadelphia and Its Manufactures: A Hand-Book Exhibiting the Development, Variety, and Statistics of the Manufacturing Industry of Philadelphia in 1857 Together with Sketches of Remarkable Manufactories; and a List of Articles Now Made in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Edward Young, 1859.

Contains detailed descriptions of Cornelius and Baker's manufacturing processes and shorter descriptions of Archer and Warner's operations.

Freeman, Larry. New Light on Old Lamps. Watkins Glen, N.Y.: Century House, 1968.

Contains useful illustrations from unidentified 1900 gas fixtures and glass catalogues.

Frink, I [saac]. P. Frink's Patent Reflectors. . . [New York, 1883].

This catalogue contains useful information on commercial and industrial (as well as some ecclesiastical) lighting during the 1870s and 1880s.

Gerhard, William Paul. The American Practice of Gas Piping and Gas Lighting in Buildings. New York: McGraw Publishing Company, 1908.

This is probably the best technical work on the subject published in America after 1900. It includes the Philadelphia rules for gasfitting, regarded as models for the whole country. Gerhard was a civil engineer and a corresponding member of the American Institute of Architects.

Greeley, Horace, et al. The Great Industries of the United States: Being an Historical Summary of the Origin, Growth, and Perfection of the Chief Industrial Arts of this Country. Hartford: J.B. Burr and Hyde, 1873.

Contains an excellent article about Cornelius and Sons.

Hale, Dean. "Diary of an Industry," The American Gas Journal, 1970. Unpaginated reprint. A useful chronological series of brief historical notes.

Harper's Weekly, 1857-ca. 1912

The comment following Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper applies equally to Harper's Weekly.

Humphreys, C. J. Russell. Gas as a Source of Light, Heat and Power. New York: A.M. Callender and Co, 1886.

An attractively designed and informative publication of the 1880s written for the layman. A clear, concise source of information.

Journal of the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania, for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts. Devoted to Mechanical and Physical Science, Civil Engineering, the Arts and Manufactures, and the Record of Patent Inventions. Philadelphia: Franklin Institute, 1826.

The last words of the lengthy title, "Record of Patent Inventions," are the most significant in this context. The Franklin Institute Journal is, for the years before 1858, as important a source of technical information as is the American Gas-Light Journal for the years after 1859.

Kouwenhoven, John A. The Columbia Historical Portrait of New York: An Essay in Graphic History in Honor of the Tricentennial of New York City and the Bicentennial of Columbia University, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1953.

This excellent source, containing many interior views showing gas fixtures, has recently been reprinted in paperback.

Lancaster, Clay. New York Interiors at the Turn of the Century in 131 Photographs by Joseph Byron from the Byron Collection of the Museum of the City of New York. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1976.

At least 15 combination gas and electric fixtures, as well as older gas fixtures and numerous electroliers are shown in these photographs taken between 1893 and 1916. Plates 5 and 41 show lighted gas candles. As in Kouwenhoven, many nondomestic interiors are included in this useful visual source.

Larkin, James. The Practical Brass and Iron Founder's Guide: A Concise Treatise of the Art of Brass Founding, Moulding, Etc. with Numerous Practical Rules, Tables, and Receipts for Gold, Silver, Tin, and Copper Founding; Plumbers, Bronze and Bell Founders, Jewellers, Etc. Philadelphia: A. Hart, 1853.

Contains some "receipts" for brass finishes that were used during the 1850s.

McDonald, Donald. Meters and Meter Makers: A Paper Prepared for the Fiftieth Anniversary Number of The American Gas-Light Journal July 19, 1911. Albany, N.Y.: C.F. Williams and Son, [1911].

Probably the best historical account of American gasmeters and their manufacturers.

McHenry, John. The Gas Meter and the Apparatus Used in the Manufacture of Coal Gas, Illustrated and Explained. Also Valuable Information Relative to Gas Fittings, Gas Burners and the Mode of Burning Gas, the Mode of Estimating the Illuminating Power of Gas, Naphthalized Gas, Ventilation of Gas Lights, the Illuminating Power of Gases, Comparison of Various Methods of Illuminating with Each Other The Cost of Manufacturing Gas at the Philadelphia and Louisville Gas Works, to Which is Added a Brief Sketch of the Early History and Progress of Gas Lighting in England, and Observations on the Generation of Illuminating Gas, Cincinnati: J. Ernst, 1853.

The title says it all. This dull but useful work is a mine of information on American gas practice at mid-century.

McKenney and Waterbury Company. Gas Catalogue G. Boston, [n.d.].

A typical as well as handsome and illustrative example of the many American catalogues dating from ca. 1900.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. 19th-Century America—Furniture and Decorative Arts: An Exhibition in Celebration of the Hundredth Anniversary of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 16 through September 7, 1970. New York: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1970.

Contains illustrations of and data on eight gas fixtures of high quality.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Print Room, Elisha Whittlesey Fund 51.533 [Archer and Pancoast Manufacturing Co.]

These 110 chromolithographed plates excellently illustrate this company's best products during the 1870s.

Mitchell, Vance and Company. Centennial Catalogue of Chandeliers, Gas Fixtures, Bronze Ornaments, Clocks, Etc. New York, 1876.

Although it has comparatively few illustrations (wood engravings, not lithographs), this catalogue contains valuable information about the firm, as well as a significant list of references.

Peckston, Thomas S. A Practical Treatise on Gas-Lighting in Which the Gas Apparatus Generally in Use is Explained and Illustrated by Twenty-two Appropriate Plates. London: Herbert, 1841.

Contains the latest technical information at the time when gaslighting was on the threshold of its first real popularity in America. This English work is, as the title says, "appropriately illustrated."

Peterson, Charles E. ed. Building Early America: Contributions Toward the History of a Great Industry. Radnor, Pennsylvania: Chilton Book Company, 1976. Chapter 11, "Early Nineteenth-Century Lighting" by Loris S. Russell.

Contains a brief but recently written sketch of gaslighting.

Peterson, Harold. Americans at Home From the Colonists to the Late Victorians. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971.

Contains numerous interior views showing gas fixtures, some of great interest.

Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, Bicentennial Exhibition April 11-October 10, 1976. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1976.

Contains excellent entries on Robert Cornelius, the artist designer John Henry Frederick Sachse, and two Cornelius fixtures.

Poor Richard's Gas Catechism for the People. Springfield, Massachusetts, 1870.

A compendium of useful information for the layman in question and answer form. An entertaining period piece of promotional propaganda.

Pyne Press. Lamps and Other Lighting Devices 1850-1906. Princeton: The Pyne Press. 1972.

This work emphasizes lamps, but it fully reproduces the Cornelius and Sons catalogue of ca. 1876. in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. A useful excerpt from Archer and Warner's Familiar Treatis is also included.

Romaine, Lawrence B. A Guide to American Trade Catalogs 1744-1900. New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1960.

Somewhat outdated, this book remains an indispensible source for finding catalogues.

Russell, Loris S. A Heritage of Light, Lamps and Lighting in the Early Canadian Home. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968.

Although its subject is Canadian lighting, many of the examples cited were made in the United States. This is one of the few relatively recent works to mention gaslighting at all.

Seale, William. The Tasteful Interlude: American Interiors through the Camera's Eye, 1860-1917. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1975.

As far as views of American domestic interiors are concerned, this book does for the later 19th century what Peterson's book does for the entire century. Together with Kouwenhoven's Columbia Historical Portrait, Lancaster's New York Interiors, and Peterson's Americans at home, Seale's Tasteful Interlude is one of the four best collections of interior views showing contemporary installations of gas fixtures.

Starr, Fellows and Company. Starr, Fellows and Company's Illustrated Catalogue of Lamps, Gas Fixtures, &c. [New York] 1856.

This major document is the first American gas fixture catalogue so far discovered in complete form.

Wainwright, Nicholas B. Philadelphia in the Romantic Age of Lithography: An Illustrated History of Early Lithography in Philadelphia with a Descriptive List of Philadelphia Scenes Made by Philadelphia Lithographers Before 1866. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1958.

Contains some excellent views of shop interiors during the 1850s.

Walter, Thomas U [stick] and Smith, J. Jay. A Guide to Workers in Metal and Stone: For the Use of Architects and Designers, Black and White Smiths, Brass Founders, Gas Fitters, Iron Masters, Plumbers, Silver and Goldsmiths, Stove and Furnace Manufacturers, Pattern Makers, Marble Masons, Stucco Workers, Carvers and Ornamental Workers in Wood, Potters, Etc. From Original Designs and Selections Made from Every Accessible Source, American and European. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1846.

Most of the gaslights shown in this work are exterior fixtures of English design, but plate 17 is the earliest illustration of American gas fixtures (by Cornelius) presently known.

Warner, Miskey and Merrill. Patterns. Philadelphia: P.S. Duval and Son, [1859].

Washington, D.C., Library of Congress, Lot 2728. Division of Prints and Photographs.

Group of 69 British engravings of gas fixtures dates from 1820-1830 and is probably the oldest collection of such illustrations still extant.

Washingtion, D.C., National Archives, Record Group 77.

Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, Fortifications File, 1776-1920. Thackera Sons and Company.

The best group of illustrations of American gas fixtures ca. 1880 that has so far been discovered.

Watkins, C. Malcolm. "Artificial Lighting in America: 1830-1860." Annual Report of the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution Showing the Operations, Expenditures, and Condition of the Institution for the Year Ended June 30, 1951. Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952, pp. 385-407.

A pioneering article with a brief discussion of gaslight.

Webster, T [homas] and Parkes, Mrs. [Frances Byerley]. An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy: Comprising Subjects Connected with the Interests of Every Individual; Such as the Construction of Domestic Edifices; Furniture; Carriages, and Instruments of Domestic Use. Also, Animal and Vegetable Substances Uses as Food, and the Methods of Preserving and Preparing Them by Cooking; Receipts, Etc. Materials Employed in Dress and the Toilet; Business of the Laundry; Preservation of Health; Domestic Medicines, &c. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1849.

Thomas Webster's Encyclopaedia was first published in London in 1844, and this 1849 American edition was entered according to an Act of Congress in 1845. This work is by no means as superficial as the title page seems to suggest. Book four, titled "Artificial Illumination," is well illustrated with British lighting devices, and chapter five of this book, "Illumination by Means of Gas," (pp. 198-206) is an excellent early article on the subject.

Yorke, Eugene H. The Essential Facts in Lighting with Kerosene, Electricity, Gas. [n.p.], 1890. An entertaining promotional brochure favoring gas written for laymen.

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Last Updated: 30-Nov-2007