No record of gas fixtures made in the United States before the late 1830s has been found. Until ca. 1840, it appears that gas fixtures used in America were imported from England and, to some extent, France.
The earliest illustrations of gas fixtures are probably those published in 1815 by Rudolph Ackermann, the London art dealer and publisher of books and prints, as embellishments of Fredrick Accum's Practical Treatise on Gas-Light. Represented here are fixtures "already in use in this Metropolis."  From left to right, they are described as 2) "Rod Gas Lamp with branches," 5) "Pendent Double-Bracket Lamp," 1) "Rod Lamp," 4) "Pendent Rod Lamp," 6) "Swing Bracket Lamp," 3) "Bracket Lamp." Except for figure 8 (right center), a "Swing Cockspur Lamp," the burners shown appear to be of the Argand type. It is worth noting that the terms "bracket" and "pendent" persisted in use, although "rod" types were soon referred to as "pillar."
Also around 1815, Ackermann published an aquatint by J. Bluck after a watercolor by Augustus Pugin (not reproduced here) showing possibly the earliest view of a gaslighted interior, Ackermann's Art Library. 
It is sometimes fallaciously thought that early gas fixtures were simple, even primitive, in form and that ornamental fixtures are therefore comparatively late in date. This plate from Accum's Practical Treatise on Gas-Light of 1815 clearly proves otherwise. "The gas-lamps exhibited in this plate, are employed in the library, counting-house, warehouse, and offices of Mr. Ackermann.  On this plate, figures 1 through 8 are described respectively as "a Candelabrum, an Arabesque Chandelier, a Roman Chandelier, a Gothic Chandelier, a Pedestal Figure Lamp, a Pedestal Vase Lamp, a Girandole, and a Candelabrum." Observe that as early as 1815, the eclectic taste so characteristic of the 19th century already embraced "Arabesque, Roman, and Gothic" designs. With the exception of the cockspur at the top of figure 1, all the burners are of the early type termed "rat-tail" (see plate 3). These fixtures were finished in greenish-bronze and highlighted with gilding.
Five of the six types of burners in use by ca. 1820 are shown here, the sixth in plate 4. The cockspur and the cockscomb were wasteful and inefficient and soon fell into disuse. The rat-tail continued in use primarily in a modified form designed for burners imitating candles. The batswing burner, used for street lamps and other outdoor illumination, and the fishtail burner were, except for gas candles, the almost universally used forms of burners until the introduction of the Welsbach mantle for general use in 1890.  The batswing burner had a domical top pierced by a narrow slit across it. The fishtail, or union jet, burner was apparently invented by the Scotsmen James Neilson and James Milne. It was so designed that two jets of equal size impinged on each other to produce a flat flame issuing from a single small aperture. The tops of fishtail burners were usually slightly concave and were pierced by a small central hole.
Very short lengths of pipe with either fishtail, batswing, or rat-tail burners were termed "scotch tips."
This illustration and the following eight plates are from a series of 69 unidentified British engravings of lighting fixtures dating around 1820-1830.  The burners with the ornamental galleries, multiple holes, and hollow centers operated on the Argand principle, producing a circular column of flame with air at the center and around the periphery. The Argand gas burner, the sixth type in use early in the development of gaslighting, does not appear to have been used extensively in the United States, although it was popular in England for interior illumination as late as the 1840s. It required the use of a glass chimney, whose drawbacks were frequent breakage and the constant need for cleaning. The crown-like galleries shown here were supports for these chimneys.
The burners with the slitted tops are batswing; those with the single holes, here termed "jet" burners, are probably fishtail, or union jet burners. Early burners, whether of iron or brass, frequently clogged because of corrosive impurities in the gas. Suppliers furnished small augers, narrow slips of brass, and small saws to clear burners. After the introduction of the steatite, or "lava," burner tip in 1858, clogging became less of a problem. These noncorroding tips, invented by M. Schwarz of Nuremburg, were made of a variety of Bavarian soapstone which had been subjected to slowly increased heat and subsequent boiling in oil. Schwarz was granted an American patent on July 20, 1858. 
This plate from the before-mentioned series of unidentified British engravings shows clearly the pin and partial collar safety device which prevented the gas cocks from being turned too far and unintentionally left on. After it was discovered that the pins provided insufficient security against accidental breakage and consequent asphyxiation, threaded cocks that precluded all possibility of leakage were frequently used.
This plate shows that so-called "pillar" fixtures and, more significantly, jointed branches were already in use during the 1820s. Jointed branches continued in use until the end of the gas era, particularly in bedroom fixtures. Their flexibility was particularly advantageous where light was desired in close proximity to mirrors. Jointed branches were also used near desks, or wherever light was needed for close work.
Most of the burners shown in the unidentified British engravings dating from ca. 1820-1830 are of the Argand type, and have the characteristic straight, tubular chimneys necessary for the Argand burner, but do not have shades. A manuscript page preceding the series notes that "articles may be had bronzed to order at the same price as lacquered," indicating that the principal finish was probably burnished brass, which required lacquer to prevent tarnishing.
These wall brackets, like the chandeliers illustrated on plate 2, show both the elaborateness of early gas fixtures and the eclectic stylistic character of their design. The uppermost bracket had traces of Baroque influence, although the foliate motifs were neoclassical in manner. The second bracket was based on architectural elements of the Gothic style rather than on any actual medieval prototype. Note that this fixture was iron and was probably gilded, whereas the other branches were probably brass. The serpentine bracket was typical of Regency taste in its least classical and most fanciful manifestation. Fantastic winged creatures appeared as late as 1856 in an American catalogue on bracket branches, and a bracket was designed in the form of a rattlesnake as late as 1859.  The foliate bracket at the bottom of the plate was throughly Greek Revival in the anthemion (honeysuckle) motif. The ball joints of all these brackets indicate that they were designed to swing from side to side.
The term "pendant" used in the text of this plate was, by the 1840s, applied only to fixtures having one or two lights. "Chandelier" or "gaselier" (also spelled "gasolier" or "gasalier") were used interchangeably for fixtures having three or more lights until the 1860s, when "chandelier" ultimately prevailed in common usage.
The slack chains of the pendant shown here were ornamental, not functional. Such chains were frequently used to decorate gas fixtures until the mid-1850s and were characteristic of gaselier design until about 1850. This 1820s example is severely neoclassical in design compared with fixtures of the late 1840s and 1850s. Note that more branches could be added and that the span of 36 inches could be reduced to about 28 inches.
This plate provides evidence that water-seal gaselier which could be raised or lowered, were available as early as the 1820s. Gas had several advantages over oil lamps and candles, among them greater safety from fire, less smoke, and no grease or oil spills. But it had one real disadvantagelack of portability. To overcome that disadvantage, numerous ingenious devices were designed such as the jointed extensible branches depicted on plate 6; and here the water seal at the top of the outer sliding stem permitted the raising or lowering of a gaselier without danger of gas leakage. A film of oil prevented rapid evaporation of the water.
In later examples, the counterweights were suspended from pulleys attached directly to the outer stem, omitting the extra set of pulleys fastened to the ceiling as shown in this plate.
Movable suspension chandeliers such as this were frequently used where light was desired close to a table. Hence, they were often used in dining rooms or over library or parlor center tables. However, there was no strict rule regarding their use. There is at least one documented instance of the use of chandeliers over the aisle, where there were no tables, between the bar and the dining booths in a St. Louis oyster saloon. 
Last Updated: 30-Nov-2007