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Argand Lamps

The Argand lamp is a domestic oil lamp patented by Aime Argand in Paris in 1780. The invention of the Argand lamp marked a sizeable improvement in light output. The lamp, which produced 6 to 10 candela, improved on the light provided by candles by a factor of 5 to 10. Additionally, the wick could be moved up or down to increase or decrease the size of the flame. Aside from the improvement in brightness, the Argand lamp offered more complete combustion of the wick and oil required much less upkeep overall than wax candles.

The design created more complete airflow around the wick, passing both through the center of the wick and also around the outside of the wick before being drawn up into the cylindrical chimney to steady the flame. Whale oil was originally the most popular fuel used in the Argand oil lamp, which by the 1850s was the lamp of choice in both Europe and America.

Quick Facts

  • On a trip to Paris in 1784 Thomas Jefferson saw the Argand lamp and was so impressed with its light output that he helped popularize the lamp in the U.S.
  • A chemist and botanist by trade, Argand travelled in an impressive circle of fellow scientists in Paris including Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, who invented the hot air balloon with his brother Joseph-Michel
  • A beautifully ornate Argand lamp was recently appraised on the Antique Roadshow for $8,000-$10,000

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