A Gaslight in a Victorian Home and its Impacts
During early days, lighting fuels consisted mainly of beeswax, olive oil, fish oil, sesame oil, whale oil, nut oil, as well as other similar substances. These fuels were used until late 18th century when gas lighting was discovered. According to Ryker (20), gaslight produced light through combustion of gaseous fuels such as carbon monoxide, acetylene, ethylene, hydrogen, methane, propane, butane, or natural gas. This method created light directly from the fire or by exposing light to the gas. Gas lighting became a very common method of indoor and outdoor lighting in cities and towns. Particularly during the reign of Queen Victoria between 1837 and 1901, lives in ordinary homes were transformed by gas lighting. Gas lighting successfully replaced the candle lighting that was prominent at the start of the Victorian period.
Gas lighting of Victorian homes began early during the 19th century. However, it was distributed to new homes during the first 50 years. Fortunately, the tides turned in 1859 following the first fitting of gas lighting to new Houses of Parliament. This marked the beginning of great social and economic change the transformed the Victorian homes through gaslight technology. This research paper investigates the social, economic, as well as practical impact of gaslight in Victorian homes. In particular, the paper discusses gaslight production design in the context of social change. According to Moore (33), the gaslight became a very important product in Victorian homes during the industrial revolution. Despite its success in relation to its efficiency in domestic life, the product had more adverse effects than the positive ones. These impacts included highly flammable composition, dangerous gaseous components, and poor ventilation among others.
The discovery, development, and use of gaslight impacted the Victorian homes both economically and socially. In fact, it marked a significant social change during the Victorian era. Having been previously accustomed and restricted to firelights and candles only, the introduction of a ‘controllable’ source of light indeed produced enormous effects in the Victorian homes. With gaslight, streets, homes, factories, shops, and eventually residential houses could now be lit. It enabled lighting to be done on a scale that was previously unimaginable.
Another outstanding economic impact of gaslight in Victoria is the increased working hours in factories as well as at homes. People were able to extend the number of their working hours in a day. This come with the benefit of increased earning thus better life and income status. This was particularly important during winter when the region experienced longer night hours. It enables the Victorian people maintain their longer working hours even during winter periods. In addition, factories could work continuously for 24 hours a day. This resulted in an increased productivity of the people. The stunning gaslight fitting also created a social change especially among the middle class where it became a mark of prosperity and success.
The use of gaslight in Victorian homes resulted in increased unequal social status. While the rich identified themselves with stunning gaslight fitting at home, the poor continued using candlelight at home. Furthermore, the poor continued to work in sweatshops where they earned little salary. On the contrary, the rich enjoyed increased working hours at factories. This resulted in increased wealth gap among Victorian homes.
Moore, Tara. Victorian Christmas in Print. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print.
Ryker, Lori. Off the Grid: Modern Homes and Alternative Energy. Layton: Gibbs and Smith Incorporation, 2005. Print.