Coal Oil Lamps

Coal Oil Lamps

Coal Oil Lamp  

Coal oil is a shale oil obtained from the destructive distillation of cannel coalmineral wax, or bituminous shale, once used widely for illumination.

A Coal Oil (kerosene) lamp (usually called a paraffin lamp in some countries) is a type of lighting device that uses coal oil (kerosene) as a fuel. These lamps have a wick or mantle as light source, protected by a glass chimney or globe; lamps may be used on a table, or hand-held lanterns may be used for portable lighting. There are three types of oil lamps: flat-wick, central-draught (tubular round wick), and mantle lamp. Kerosene lanterns meant for portable use have a flat wick and are made in dead-flame, hot-blast, and cold-blast variants.

The term was in use by the late 18th century, for oil produced as a byproduct of the production of coal gas and coal tar.  In the early 19th century it was discovered that coal oil distilled from cannel coal could be used in lamps as an illuminant, although the early coal oil burned with a smokey flame, so that it was used only for outdoor lamps; cleaner-burning whale oil was used in indoor lamps.

Coal oil that burned cleanly enough to compete with whale oil as an indoor illuminant was first produced in 1850 by James Young on the Union Canal in Scotland, who patented the process. Production thrived in Scotland, making Young a very wealthy man. James Young was born in the Drygate area of Glasgow, the son of John Young, a cabinetmaker and joiner ( An interesting article on James Young  :- ).

In the United States, coal oil was widely manufactured in the 1850’s under the trade name Kerosene, manufactured by a process invented by Canadian geologist Abraham Gesner. Young triumphed in his patent lawsuit against the Gesner process in the United States in 1860. But by that time, US coal oil distillers were switching over to refining cheaper petroleum, after the discovery of abundant petroleum in western Pennsylvania in 1859, and oil from coal operations ceased in the US.(Abraham Pineo Gesner, ONB (May 2, 1797 – April 29, 1864) was a Canadian physician and geologist who invented kerosene. Gesner was born in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia and lived much of his life in Saint John, New Brunswick. He died in HalifaxNova Scotia. He was an influential figure in the development of the study of Canadian geology and natural history.)

Pressurized kerosene lamps have a gas generator and gas mantle; these are known as PetromaxTilley lamps, or Coleman lamps, among other manufacturers. They produce more light per unit of fuel than wick-type lamps, but are more complex and expensive in construction and more complex to operate. A hand-pump pressurizes air, which forces liquid fuel from a reservoir into a gas generator. Vapor from the gas generator burns, heating a mantle to incandescence and also providing heat to the gas generator.

The first description of a simple lamp using crude mineral oil was provided by Persian alchemist al-Razi. In 1846 Abraham Pineo Gesner invented a substitute for whale oil for lighting, distilled from coal. Later made from petroleum, kerosene became a popular lighting fuel. Modern versions of the kerosene lamp were later constructed by the Polish inventor Ignacy Łukasiewicz in 1853 in Lviv.

Today Kerosene lamps are widely used for lighting in rural areas of Africa and Asia, where electricity is not distributed or is too costly. Kerosene lamps consume an estimated 77 billion litres of fuel per year, equivalent to 1.3 million barrels of oil per day,comparable to annual U.S. jet-fuel consumption of 76 billion litres per year.

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