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Betty lamp

The Betty lamp is a type of oil lamp, usually made of iron. Also called a Crusie lamp, this method of lighting is very common in the St. Lawrence Valley.

The oil, or animal fat, is placed in the container at the base of the lamp. The wick, a long cotton or hemp thread, soaks in the oil or fat and comes out of the spout. The wick is then lit to create light. The reservoir of the lamp is attached to a long rod with a hook for hanging from the ceiling or chimney.

The accessibility and low cost of the fuels make the Betty lamp very popular. Tallow, made from rendered animal fat, is generally used; in coastal areas, porpoise, whale, or seal oil is also used. These practical aspects make up for the poor quality of the lighting and the unpleasant odour emanating from the lamps.

Candles are the other most commonly used method of lighting. Also made of tallow, candles are manufactured in two ways: by soaking the wick in liquid tallow, or by casting with tin candle moulds. For a long time, the production of candles remains a domestic activity in rural areas where animal fat is easily accessible. In kitchens, Betty lamps are preferred, as candles would be more likely to drip into the food.


Date: Late 18th century

Origin: Quebec

Owner: Site historique de la maison Lamontagne.


Woodhead, E. I., Sullivan, C., & Gusset, G. (1984). Lighting devices in the National Reference Collection. Parks Canada. http://parkscanadahistory.com/series/saah/lightingdevices.pdf

Maison Saint-Gabriel. (n.d.). Bec de corbeau [Betty lamp]. Retrieved July 14, 2022, from https://maisonsaintgabriel.ca/bec-de-corbeau/

Diderot, D. (1753). Chandelle [Candle]. In J. L. R. D’Alembert, & D. Diderot (Eds.), L’Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonnée des sciences, des arts et des métiers (vol. 3, p. 124b). http://enccre.academie-sciences.fr/encyclopedie/article/v3-178-0/

Illustration: Betty lamp