M10605 | Candle mould
1800-1900, 19th century
26 x 7.3 x 21 cm
Gift of Messrs. Papineau
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Mould (6)
Keys to History
Candle moulds were among the household items in many Canadian homes in the nineteenth century, especially during the first half of the century. The candle was the main source of lighting, along with the oil lamp.
Throughout the century, however, innovations steadily appeared that made lighting more effective and economical. Candles were expensive and, like oil lamps and kerosene lamps, which appeared in 1852, they needed to be handled with care in order to prevent fires. It was not until the end of the century that a safer method of lighting, the bulb, became popular.
There were two methods for making candles. They could be made without a mould, by "immersion", which involved dipping the cords several times into hot tallow, until they took shape. Candles could also be made using a mould like this one. A wick is put through a hole in one of the mould tubes, and then tied. This wick was then held taut using a rod and the hot substance (tallow, etc.) was poured into the mould. Once they had cooled, the candles were taken out of the mould.
The number of tubes varied depending on the candle mould. The moulds often came with approximately six tubes, but some had one tube or even 24 tubes.
A candle did not produce a lot of light in a room. For the sake of comparison, approximately 35 to 40 candles would be needed to obtain as much light as that produced by a 40-watt bulb.
In the nineteenth century, different substances were used to make candles: tallow candles (sheep or cow fat) were prone to dripping and produced a nauseating odour; sperm oil candles (or spermaceti) had less of an odour, but were very expensive; candles made of stearin, a substance resulting from the transformation of animal and vegetable fat available around 1830, were less costly; candles made of paraffin, with its hydrocarbon base, appeared with the advent of the oil industry around 1860.
It would seem that candle production using moulds was especially popular in the nineteenth century within English Canada, while immersion was the preferred method in Quebec.