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Good to the Last Drop

Twin Lights in 100 Artifacts #4: Oil Measure

For the majority of the Navesink Lighthouse’s operations it was lit with fuel oils, from lard to Kerosene. Given the high cost of fuel, Lighthouse keepers were responsible for keeping detailed accounts for their expenditures along with the weather conditions.

Larger pitchers were likely used to bring the fuel up to the lantern room at the top of the tower. Smaller pitchers such as this “one gill” (1/2 pint) measure would have been more convenient for transferring the oil to the lighting apparatus. The smaller size would help control how much oil was poured into the illuminating apparatus.

The above image is from an 1884 Scientific American magazine and it shows lighthouse keepers maintaining the Parabolic Reflectors and Lewis Lamps in common use prior to the adoption of Fresnel Lenses here in America. The oil drum on the back side of the reflector was known as a fountain and was used to hold the fuel for the lamp. A larger pitcher can be seen on the floor of the lantern room in the background. The fountains would have to be periodically refilled to keep the lamps in operation.