1880s City of Boston Sewer Department

This one is a bit of an oddball, this lantern was made by the Railroad Signal Lamp & Lantern Co. (RRSL&L) for the City of Boston’s Sewer Department. With the red globe, this likely would have been placed on streets to signify men were working. I don’t really know much about the history of this lantern, as it came from a local auction near me. I’m not sure how it made its way up to Ontario, and remained in this good of shape. I can only imagine it would have a neat story to tell if it could.

The City Of Boston Sewer Department

The City of Boston Sewer department was formed in the 1870s to construct a sewer system for the city. The sewer system was built between 1877 and 1884, it directed the flow of sewage out to an island named Moon Island in the Boston Harbour, where sewage was left to be taken away by the tide. This lantern lines up directly with the date of the construction of the sewers. The Boston Sewer department managed the sewers of Boston until 1977. A new entity, the Boston Water and Sewer Commission took over management of both the sewer and water systems of Boston. You can read more about the City of Boston sewers here, and here.

The Lantern

This lantern is in excellent shape, it has a lot of the tin plating left on the lantern. Tin plating was used as a rust preventive measure, although over time it wears off. For a lantern to have this much of the plating still intact, it was well taken care of. The lantern also has a 6 inch ‘barrel’ globe. This is the nickname given to globes of this shape, because it resembles a barrel. One thing common to a lot of RRSL&L lanterns of the era, is the adjustable globe retainer inside the lid of the lantern. Back then globe sizes weren’t standardized. So when sourcing globes, often they would be different heights. To ensure a tight fit, manufacturers like RRSL&L would make the globe retainer inside the lantern adjustable to fit different sized globes. That’s why there is a break between the two rings on the chimney.

Lastly, this lantern also has a glass fount, and whale oil burner. The fount clips in from the bottom. Fuel founts were made of glass as fuels of the era, such as whale oil, was corrosive to metal. A whale oil burner has two stems each with an individual wick, the user would use a pair of tweezers to manually adjust the wick position in the lantern. Interestingly, this lanterns fount is still full of whale oil. Although it has gone off over the years. It’s turned bright blue, is extremely sticky and smalls quite a lot like a crayon. Originally it would have been a translucent brown colour, quite an interesting transformation.

Overall, while this lantern is certainly ‘out there’ in my collection, I just love it and the unique history of where it came from. I’ve decided to leave it in as is condition, because it has a beautiful look already.


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