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Lamps Throughout The Years

The Early Years

Oil Lamps

Evidence of the first lamps used by humans dates all the way back to 70,000 BC. At this time, they used a hollow rock, shell, or other objects, filled it with moss or a similar material, then soaked in animal fat and set it on fire. Thus, the earliest oil lamp was created.

As society developed, so did the materials lamps were made with and made out of. The first lamps that were made out of manmade materials were found in Egypt, Rome, and Greece. These lamps were made out of terracotta, bronze, alabaster, and stone. They were made in the shape of a dish that would hold the oil and the wick so that it would burn for a longer period of time, and so that the entire surface would not catch fire.  For the first time, they were reusable!

From the open dish, the oil lamp evolved into a closed container with a spout. This gave more room for decorating when it came to these lamps. The design stayed the same until the 18th century, where the Argand Lamp was created. This lamp consisted of a container for oil, a cylindrical wick for a larger flame, and a glass tube chimney to direct the flame. Oil lamps lasted until the mid 19th century when the kerosene lamps took over for a short while until electricity was discovered.

Kerosene Lamps

The oil lamp was the first, but it was not the most effective. The oil couldn’t be stored for a long period of time and the lighting wasn’t the best. Enter the kerosene lamp.

There were 3 types of these lamps: a lamp with a flat wick, a lamp that uses central draught and has a tubular wick, and a mantle lamp. When kerosene was discovered, the fluid was placed in a lamp with a wick and it burned with a bright yellow flame, much brighter than oil. The fluid was named kerosene. At first, kerosene was too expensive. But when it was found that kerosene could be extracted from petroleum the price became affordable and at the same time, that triggered the worldwide race for oil.

Electric Lamps

A new power source was discovered, and it would have a big impact on life around the world. The beginning of the 19th century was when electric lamps started appearing. The incandescent lamp was first created when an electrical current was passed through a platinum strip. It didn’t last long or give enough light, but it sparked ideas. Later developments such as tungsten filaments and inert gas brought about the lamp we know today. Over 100 years later, we’re still using these once experiments.


Advancement in the technology of electric lamps is still going on. Who knows what will be created next? But we know and can appreciate what we used to use. Collecting old oil, kerosene, and electric lamps can really be eye opening. It’s like having your very own piece of history! Come check out the many types of lamps we have in stock at Back N The Day.


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