What are Brass Hurricane Lamps?


A hurricane lamp is a light source fueled by a candle, various kinds of oil, or in more modern times, electricity. The base of the lamp can be made from a variety of materials such as brass, bronze, tin, steel, glass or ceramics. The original hurricane lamps, which used either a candle or wicked oil to generate light, were designed with a glass chimney to protect the source of the flame. While the modern electric versions no longer need the protection of the chimney, manufacturers still include them in order to retain the hurricane lamp's original design.

Hurricane lamps are enclosed, shielding the flame from the wind.
Hurricane lamps are enclosed, shielding the flame from the wind.

Today, brass seems to be the preferred type of base on hurricane lamps because of the metal's durability. Brass will not split or break should the lamp be dropped and it holds up for years without any seeping or leaking. The advantage over lamps with steel-painted bases is that brass never rusts.

Citronella oil may be used in lamps and act as a deterrent against mosquitoes.
Citronella oil may be used in lamps and act as a deterrent against mosquitoes.

People continue to purchase brass hurricane lamps for a wide range of reasons. Some like to collect antique brass hurricane lamps that were a part of our country's early history. For more than a century, this type of lamp lighted the homes of Americans before the invention of gas-powered or electric lights; many antique lamps were used aboard sailing ships to light the cabins or to hail the attention of those on shore. Other people buy brass hurricane lamps for practical reasons, as an alternative light source when the power goes out due to inclement weather or electrical problems. Still others continue to buy brass hurricane lamps simply because they love the look and use them as decorative pieces to evoke a bygone era.

Modern brass hurricane lamps can be fueled by a number of sources: kerosene, lamp oil, liquid paraffin, and citronella oil. Most oil hurricane lamps are constructed with a knob with which to control the level of light. They come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and styles. Related to the hurricane lamp is the lantern. The difference between a hurricane lamp and a lantern is that a lantern is enclosed, with side and top portions to add strength and safety should the lamp tip over. Many lanterns are also made with a loop at the top for hanging from a hook.

While lighting sources have changed in modern times, brass hurricane lamps will continue to grace our homes into the future - both for their beauty and their usefulness.

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Discussion Comments


My mom has two small hurricane lamps sitting on an antique dresser. They are very feminine with a pretty rose floral design painted on them. They are not original hurricane oil lamps, but are fashioned after that era and look very nice sitting on top of some old fashioned doilies.

As a kid I never appreciated antiques and thought they were just old junk. Now that I am a little older, this is something that I appreciate more all the time, and have even bought a few antiques for my own home.


My uncle has an antique lighting business and has a few brass hurricane lamps in his shop. There are many people who have an interest in these vintage hurricane lamps. I do think they are quite unique and served a very good purpose, but I am thankful we don't have to use them today for lighting.

It can be a mess dealing with wicks and kerosene to keep lights like this going - not to mention the fire hazard. Most people who purchase them are more interested in them for their design and don't plan on using them for any practical purposes.

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