The act of casting iron dates back around 500 B.C. when iron was smelted (the process of producing metal from ore). This process lead to producing sheet iron which could be formed into shapes and usable articles such as the Crusie Lamp. Heading into the 1800’s with advancements in technology and the Industrial Revolution we see both lamps and candlesticks being cast to shape.
Tinsmithing dates back to the 1600’s where peddlers would travel from village to village to sell their tin wares. Cheap and easy to produce, tin ware is sheet iron with a tin coating and parts are joined together by soldering. It was cheap and durable and welcomed by all. When new, the bright appearance looked like silver thus dubbing it the poor man’s silver. Today most tin whale oil lamps are found with a dark patina from years of use and the wearing away of the bright finish. Also, it is common to find items made of tin with old black paint, toleware painted finishes, or japanned painted finishes.
Typical tin whale oil lamps date from the early 1800’s to mid 1800’s. The earliest types have weighted bases most commonly by the use of sand. The mushroom & lemon shape fonts are of the earlier types. Also, as advancements in glass making were made, glass whale oil fonts were often used with tin bases.