Lighting of the Past: Candle Dipping

Historical Significance

An early type of lighting was torches made from pine-knots. Candles were made from tallow or animal fat. Wicks were made of loosely spun hemp or tow or of cotton. Sometimes wicks were made from the silk found in the fall in the milkweed pod. Candles were either dipped or molded. Beeswax was used for making candles and later when oil was discovered in the mid-1800s paraffin was used to make candles. An early type of lamp was the Betty-lamp. The hollow part of the lamp was filled with tallow, grease, or oil with a piece of cotton rag or coarse wick. The flame was smoky and ill-smelling. Oil lamps that were used in the 1800s gave a much brighter light than candles.

How Candle Dipping Relates to Tipton-Haynes

Early settlers such as the Tiptons relied on the fireplace for warmth and light. They also had access to oil lamps. By the time the Haynes family lived in the house during the mid 1800s, in addition to oil lamps, candles enabled them to have light at the end of the day. Candles were traditionally made in the fall when the days were cooler.

Student Activity

Students will talk about the need for candles during the time of Landon Carter Haynes. A discussion will be held regarding what was involved in getting ready to make candles in the early days, i.e., chopping wood for the fire to heat the wax and preparing the wicks for dipping into the hot wax. A block of beeswax will be passed around for students to smell, noting the aroma of honey which permeates it. Students will observe that candles were made by pouring hot wax into candle molds. Each student will then dip a candle made of a combination of beeswax and paraffin. Holding onto both ends of a dowel  holding a wick, students will take turns dipping first into the hot wax & then in a coffee can of ice water to hasten the cooling and then go to the back of the line. When the candle is a medium size, students put their nametag on their candle. Students will take the candles home with them at the end of the session.