Support Our Work!

In honor of Thomas Jefferson’s 281st birthday, will you help us preserve and protect Monticello for generations to come?

GIVE NOW
Argand Lamp

Created: c. 1805

Materials: brass

Dimensions: H (overall): 104.1 (41 in.); main housing: 44.5 × 59.7 (17 1/2 in. × 23 1/2 in.); chimneys H: 19.1 (7 1/2 in.); D: 5.1 (2 in.); upper canopy H: 19.1 (7 1/2 in.); D: 24.8 (9 3/4 in.)

Location: Entrance Hall

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by purchase to James Barclay; by purchase to Uriah P. Levy; by descent to Jefferson Monroe Levy; by purchase to Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923

Accession Number: 1923-16

Historical Notes: This four-branch brass hanging Argand lamp, with a central oil reservoir, and acanthus-leaf ornaments, was probably made in England.[1] It may be the "passage lanthern" that Jefferson purchased for Monticello in 1805 from the Philadelphia stationers Caldcleugh and Thomas.[2] "Lanthern" then referred to lamps of this type, as well as hanging lamps for candles consisting of glass panes in a metal frame. Two years later, Jefferson bought "lanthern ornaments" from the same firm, including a balance shell, brass chain, and double pullies, suggesting that at this time the Entrance Hall ceiling was prepared for hanging the lamp.[3]

The inventory taken after Jefferson's death fails to mention this hanging lamp in the Entrance Hall, but it does include some wall-mounted lamps that were probably also Argand types. Jefferson sent some of the first Argand lamps from England to the United States in 1786.

- Text from Stein, Worlds, 416

References

  1. ^ For comparable English lamps and accessories, see the Winterthur Museum trade catalog #2872, [Catalog of Lighting Devices], c. 1810-1815.
  2. ^ Caldcleugh & Thomas invoice, May 30, 1805, Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society. See also Jefferson, July 12, 1805, in MB, 2:1159, 2:1159n82. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ Caldcleugh & Thomas invoice, May 30, 1807, Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society. See also Jefferson, August 29, 1807, in MB, 2:1209, 2:1209n22. Transcription available at Founders Online.