M930.50.7.421 | A. R. Stover, Kerosene oil safe

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A. R. Stover, Kerosene oil safe
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
9.5 x 8 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Miscellaneous (671) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

Scientific discoveries, advances in glass production methods and wider distribution systems promote changes in the lighting of domestic interiors. The first experiments to distil and purify kerosene from solid bitumen take place in New Brunswick in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Abraham Gesner patents his find in 1854. This inexpensive and plentiful lighting oil is made readily available by dispensing from large kerosene oil safes to smaller wooden kegs, as seen here. Kerosene augments those less reliable flammable liquids on the market - including whale oil, alcohol and spirits of turpentine. Glass lamps are made to accommodate kerosene, promoting glass manufactories from Ontario to Nova Scotia. Oil lamps, while providing light that draws families together around centre tables in leisurely parlour activities, create smoky atmospheres. This accounts for the choice of darker colours for interior decorations at midcentury.

Source : Crowding the Parlour [Web tour], by Jane Cook, McGill University (see Links)

  • What

    Kerosene was run off from an oil safe to smaller kegs. Stover's sold standard export and lubricating oils as well as lamp oil.

  • Where

    Both the engraver and A. R. Stover's store were located in Montreal. Kerosene was first derived from bitumen in Albert County, NB.

  • When

    This engraving was produced after 1860, most likely sometime between 1880 and the end of the century.

  • Who

    Geologist Abraham Gesner (1797-1864) invented kerosene. His collection formed the basis for Canada's first natural history museum at the Mechanic's Institute in Saint John, NB.