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The Lamplighter

The Lamplighter
Engraving from a broadside advertising the book by Maria Cummins
from Library of Congress, American Memory website

    The National Magazine, Vol. 7, July-December 1855, edited by Abel Stevens, New York: Carleton & Phillips, p. 187 reported:

“Ball Hughes has executed a beautiful and characteristic group called The Lamplighter founded upon and illustrating the charming story bearing this title.”

    The broadside engraving above does not appear in any of the books that I have found archived online. It does appear on the cover of several modern reprints of the book, The Lamplighter, by Maria Cummins.

    The description of a "group" implies that there may have been multiple characters from the story in Ball Hughes' sculpture.

The Lamplighter was written by American novelist, Maria Cummins  (1827-1866) in 1854 when she was 26 or 27 years old. Maria Cummins lived with her parents on Bowdoin Street in Dorchester, MA, about 2 miles away from the Ball Hughes home, Sunnyside, on School Street.

    Read the book at the Internet Archive or at Project Gutenberg. Read more about Maria Cummins at The Dorchester Atheneum.

The pictures of Sunnyside from the 1950's and 1880's below show two different styles of street lamps. The first one is a lamppost in the lower-left corner of the photo that requires a ladder or a pole with a torch on the end to light it. The second one is suspended by a pulley wheel in the upper-left corner of the photo and can be lowered to the ground for maintenance. It could be a carbon-arc lamp.

Photo of Sunnyside
Circa 1850's?
from a Stereoscopic Card
Image courtesy of Frederick R. Brown III

University of Massachusetts Archives
Circa 1880's?

Street lamps originally used candles or oil, followed by kerosene and gas. The production of electric lamps in the late 1870's led to the end of the lamplighter occupation.
    Do you know where the sculpture is today or have any images of it?

last update 10/23/2012

For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2012