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Catalog Data

Cast iron
70 × 10 1/2 in. (177.8 × 26.7 cm)
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast-iron lammpost with morning glory motif. The post is rounded with a wider base portion. The surface of the post has a morning glory vine motif snaking up the post. Naturalism, the realistic reproduction of the beauties of nature, was a popular style in the Victorian era. Though it appears as early as the 1840’s in America, naturalistic designs continued to the 1900s. This was in part due to the influence of the natural sciences, and interest in nature and gardening, which spread through the upper and middle classes in the nineteenth century. Naturalistic designs incorporated floral, foliate, fruit, vegetal, and animal forms into furnishings and decorative objects for the home and garden. Popular subjects included grapes, cornstalks, ferns, Solomon seal or laurel leaf, passion flowers, lilies of the valley, morning glories, oak leaves, acorns, vines, and roses.
Label Text:
A lamppost, streetlight, street lamp, or light pole is an elevated source of light meant to illuminate a road or path. The earliest form of street lighting was by candle lamps on wooden posts and required a lamplighter to visit each post in the town at dusk to light them. These early lamps were employed by cities leading up to the nineteenth century. The discovery of coal gas and its uses led to the earliest widespread system of street lighting, which used pipe lines to deliver this fuel source throughout the area. Following its successful introduction in Europe, gas lighting was introduced to the United States. Because of the flammability of gas, city authorities required safe, durable metal to carry it. Cast iron was chosen as the best material for lampposts and gas pipes because it was nonflammable, inexpensive, and easy to mass produce. Baltimore was the first American city to employ gas streetlights as early as 1816, and gas had become the dominant form of both street and home illumination in the United States by the Civil War. Because of the advancements and improvements in street lighting, public spaces could be enjoyed late into the evening in the nineteenth century. In addition to city street lights, many churches, businesses and private owners installed their own lampposts. Like other cast iron fixtures in the nineteenth century, lampposts were used as an adjunct to the architecture, accessorizing buildings and increasing their curb-appeal. Following the styles from Europe, designs were often elaborate and sculptural, some having applied, wrought-iron details. By the 1890s, electricity was beginning to replace gas. Carbon arc light, and later incandescent lamps gradually replaced gas street lighting as cities switched over their sources of power. Despite these changes, cast iron remained a popular material for lampposts.
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Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
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Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens