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Handle with Care

Twin Lights in 100 Artifacts #5: Oil Storage Box

Twin Lights has been a testing site for many technological innovations over its time. Given the site’s proximity to the East Coast distribution depot on Staten Island, it’s primarily light status, and its two towers made the Navesink Light Station an ideal testing location for new technologies and tools.

Mineral Oil, better known by its trade name Kerosene, began manufacture in New York by 1854. The new oil, distilled from coal and oil shale, was found to be a superior illuminant to lard oils rendered from the fat of fish, seals, or whales. Within a decade Kerosene overtook rendered fats in household oil lanterns across America.

Harbor lighthouses followed and began utilizing the more efficient fuels in the 1870s. The primarily lighthouses, such as Twin Lights, were left with the older lard oils until later as only the most reliable illuminants could be utilized in these important coastal locations.

In the 1883 Annual Report, the Lighthouse Board proudly announced the arrival of Kerosene to Twin Lights:

The South Tower was converted to Kerosene the following year. The rapid adoption of Kerosene continued, with the majority of U.S. Lighthouses having adopted the new fuel by 1875. More discussion on this topic can be found in the next blog entry.


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