The October Country Inn (check us out) was recently certified “Greenleader Gold,” by Trip Advisor for our energy conservation practices. A substantial element of our conservation practices is to use energy-efficient lighting throughout the inn. We first replaced all the many incandescent light bulbs with the more efficient flourescent variety, leaving a box full of incandescent bulbs in the basement. Most recently we revisited this bulb switching strategy by replacing all the flourescent bulbs with the even more energy-efficient LED variety. Now we also have a box full of flourescent bulbs in the basement alongside the box of incandescent bulbs.
Speaking of light, regardless of how energy-efficient our lighting may be, a nighttime thunder-storm will roll through every once in a while and blow down a few trees taking out a power line somewhere, and we are thrown into darkness like it was the middle ages. Out come the candles. Candles have been around since about 3000 BC, however, where they were once the go-to form of artificial light, they only serve an interim purpose when electricity is unavailable to provide quick access to light in order to collect and fire up the slightly more practical wick burning lamps.
In the eighteenth century, Edie’s Vermont ancestors would have used wick lamps burning whale oil (which may well have also come from Edie’s whale hunting ancestors). Compared to candles, whale oil produced a superior whiter, brighter light. But then they began to run out of whales. The price of whale oil went way up, and cheaper carboniferous fuels from coal and petroleum emerged. By the 1850s kerosene replaced whale oil as the lamp fuel of choice in the Woodstock area. The next big thing in indoor lighting was fueled by gas that was piped into homes and businesses from coal-fired gas generating stations like Woodstock’s Gas Light Company set up in 1855. Gas light was cheap and led to a high incidence of night illumination in the cities and towns of the area. It was also a bit dangerous and led to many structure fires as well as gas plant explosions.
Of course, just like today, when gas supplies (or electrical supplies) are interrupted, out come the candles and lamps. In some ways, when you need to push back the darkness, not much has changed.