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Early Portsmouth Betty Whale Oil Lamp


Sale price $225.50 Regular price $249.50

Early lighting pieces such as this one are just a pleasure to own as they have history relating to the importance of light in colonial homes back in the day. Each progressive lighting device created was improved upon as the years passed. This exciting early lighting vessel dates around the 1840’s to the 1850’s period and has pleasing form given that it possesses its own “tidy”. The lamp is not removeable and is part of the stand which is in direct contrast to the Ipswich (Massachusetts) version of the Betty that has a removeable lamp feature. This design is believed to have roots stemming from the Portsmouth area of New Hampshire and therefore is called the “Portsmouth Betty” Lamp.

Upon opening the lid a woven fabric wick is revealed that helped assist in keeping the flame alive. It rests near the font area and absorbed the whale oil in the reservoir as shown in image 9. The hinged lid does not completely close near the front opening but rather raises up about ¼” on the right compared to about 1/8” on the left hand side. Some betty’s have a round tube feature where the wick would be encapsulated but this one sports a square burner to accommodate the wick that would be fed through it and denotes a later feature.

The finial is comprised of three concentric rolled circles joined together that closely mimic finials often found on tin sugar bowls. This piece was fashioned using sheet iron and has a delicious dark surface, albeit the soldered areas. There is just a smidge of light surface rust on the top (lid area and behind it). No dents or crimped edges can be found as this neat lighting device is in good shape!

What I favor about this lamp is the feature boasting a circular pan at the bottom which can just explode with wonderful decorating possibilities! The other nice attribute is the cone shaped base of the “lamp stand” that rests on the pan, as it is offset so there is more area in the front to place special decorative elements.

Early lighting devices such as this one are getting harder to find and have become very popular among collector’s as each piece speaks of a particular era carved out in time where illuminating devices served an essential need for lighting in the home. I have seen this piece offered for $350.00 which seems to be the “going rate”. However I was able to obtain this Portsmouth Betty for a reasonable price and am passing along the savings to you. Enjoy lighting up your homestead with a piece of history!

Lamp stands approximately 7 ½” tall, top measures 3 ¼” from the opening to the back and measures 2 ½” across (back area) and graduates to 1 ¾” across the front area, base measures 6” across and has a 1” secure sidewall area that can hold delightful holiday accoutrements!

~Freight (Standard Mail) included, however Insurance is optional and can be purchased @ checkout ~ within the continental U.S.

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