Early Lighting

Antique Iron Rushlight & Candle Holder Combonation with Wood Base
  • I recently acquired 4 nice pieces of early iron lighting from a local estate of a long-time collector.  From that collection, here is an iron rushlight with candle holder on the original wood base.  

    The rushight, sometimes called the "poor man's candle", is made from the common bog or meadow rush, juncus effusus, which grows abundantly in parts of Europe and America.  The rush is cut in late summer and while green is stripped of three-fourths of its cortex, leeaving a narrow spine to support the exposed pith.  After the peeled rush is thoroughly dry, it is run through melted tallow in an iron boat-shaped vessel called a grisset, and when dry is ready for burning in the holder at a 45-degree angle.

    "Spring and Rush Holders", Early Lighting: A Pictorial Guide, 2nd Edition Revised, The Rushlight Club, 1988.  9

    For those who have not encountered rushlights, the rush was held in the scissor-like contraption at the top of the iron post.  The holder moves freely without a spring to hold it, so it must be counterbalanced to allow it to grasp the rush.  What are probably the earliest of these counterbalanced rushlights, the counterbalance was a iron ball at the end of the arm.  Later came these duel purpose lighting pieces in which a candle holder counterbalanced the rush.  This lovely 18th century combination light has a simple form: straight post terminating in the rush holder and counterbalancing arm ending in a simple candle cup with an overlapping seam.  The rush holder has a hand-wrought rivet and the post has a pointed end like a hand-wrought nail that has been driven into this original simple wood base.  There are a lot of fake iron and wood pieces on the market and one very important thing to look for is that the center post is driven all the way through the wood base.  This one is as right as rain.  You can feel the tip of the nail on the bottom of the base and I guarantee every part is original and antique.  One side of the base is smooth except for the chiseling (see 3rd photos) and the other side is rougher....maybe the edge of a knot.  It stands 8 1/2" tall, the base is 3 3/8" at the widest, and the widest point on the piece (measuring from the edge of the candle holder to the far side of the base) is about 5".  Circa late 18th to early 19th century.

    (#5460)     $775