A hurricane lamp is a light source fueled by a candle, various kinds of oil, or in more modern times, electricity. The base of the lamp can be made from a variety of materials such as brass, bronze, tin, steel, glass or ceramics. The original hurricane lamps, which used either a candle or wicked oil to generate light, were designed with a glass chimney to protect the source of the flame. While the modern electric versions no longer need the protection of the chimney, manufacturers still include them in order to retain the hurricane lamp's original design.
Today, brass seems to be the preferred type of base on hurricane lamps because of the metal's durability. Brass will not split or break should the lamp be dropped and it holds up for years without any seeping or leaking. The advantage over lamps with steel-painted bases is that brass never rusts.
People continue to purchase brass hurricane lamps for a wide range of reasons. Some like to collect antique brass hurricane lamps that were a part of our country's early history. For more than a century, this type of lamp lighted the homes of Americans before the invention of gas-powered or electric lights; many antique lamps were used aboard sailing ships to light the cabins or to hail the attention of those on shore. Other people buy brass hurricane lamps for practical reasons, as an alternative light source when the power goes out due to inclement weather or electrical problems. Still others continue to buy brass hurricane lamps simply because they love the look and use them as decorative pieces to evoke a bygone era.
Modern brass hurricane lamps can be fueled by a number of sources: kerosene, lamp oil, liquid paraffin, and citronella oil. Most oil hurricane lamps are constructed with a knob with which to control the level of light. They come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and styles. Related to the hurricane lamp is the lantern. The difference between a hurricane lamp and a lantern is that a lantern is enclosed, with side and top portions to add strength and safety should the lamp tip over. Many lanterns are also made with a loop at the top for hanging from a hook.
While lighting sources have changed in modern times, brass hurricane lamps will continue to grace our homes into the future - both for their beauty and their usefulness.