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Punched Tin Lantern

ca.1750-1850
Origin: America
OH: 7 1/2"; OH with suspension: 14 1/2"; ODiam.: 3 1/4"
Tinned sheet iron, iron wire and solder
Gift of June S. Hennage
Acc. No. 2016-164
Tinned sheet iron lantern of unusually small size. A flat circular base supports a cylindrical body with conical top and a hinged door with a scrolled hasp. A crimped circular rain hood is set above the vented top of the cone by a pair of wire struts, and is attached to a wire hanging hook at its center. All surfaces of the body have been pierced from the inside with neat rows of short dashes and crescent-shaped punches. The rounded tabs created by the latter have been bent outward to allow more light to pass through.
Label:Tin lanterns, made with translucent or transparent panes of cow horn or glass, were made in Europe beginning in the early sixteenth century. By the latter part of the American colonial period, solid cylindrical types with decoratively pierced walls had appeared. Dispensing with the need to fuss with glass or horn, they allowed light to radiate through the many openings punched into their components prior to assembly. In addition to protecting a candle's flame from a breeze or a light rain, the pierced designs cast an attractive pattern of light.

This tiny example is remarkable for its size and its clever hanging system, which includes a crimped rain hood suspended over the vent hole at the top of its body. There is no evidence of an affixed candle socket inside, suggesting that this lantern housed a removable component similar to a diminutive chamber candlestick.

Tinned sheet iron lanterns remained popular for generations. They were commonly used into the middle part of the nineteenth century, when they were eclipsed by more innovative lighting devices. Reclaimed from obsolescence by nostalgia and bolstered by technology, pierced lanterns are available once again, either for use with a candle or an electric bulb.