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Old 04-14-2009, 01:16 PM
R. Dale Flick R. Dale Flick is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,584

*RE: ROBT. E. LEE chandeliers/Port Gibson.*
Keith, thanks for posting the photos of the chandeliers from the Str. ROBT. E. LEE in the Port Gibson church and private home. Fascinating history that has intrigued many of us for years and your summation was clear and concise. I knew you'd be the one with the information. The photos are fine when enlarged for a closer look. Light fixtures, like furniture and carpeting, were no doubt altered or changed with the style of the period or need.

My question is: Did these chandeliers now or then have the chain system for raising and lowering to refill with oil in the old days or to change the bulbs today? Some steamboat photos of cabins show this system with a kind of 'hook' on the bottom to catch and pull down; then raise back up with a pole. This saved hauling a ladder in to do the work along with cleaning sooty globes and chimneys and dusting. Other times even rarer photos show a system of 'restraining cords' made of ornamental chain or even velvet to keep the chandeliers from swinging too dangerously from side to side if the boat was 'working hard' in shallow water or, in some cases on period ocean steamships, in rough seas.

Back when I was a kid about 1950 or so an old steamboat painter on/around 90 told my dad that in his young years painting boats at the Cincinnati Marine Railway here in Cincinnati he observed the cabin boys and chamber maids pull the fixures down by the chains to clean with vinegar or clear ammonia in water even if electricity was already in use. Oil lamps went out quickly with the advent of electric plants on steamers but no doubt a few boats retained them for a while longer. Keeping those grand cabins demanded a lot of elbow grease and hard work with all the river soot, smoke and dust. Cleaning products were limited then compared to today's but they did use naptha ['Napthaleen'] on the cabin carpets.

Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River.
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