Saturday, November 14, 2009

Genuine Bayberry Candles

One of the most popular items now being ordered on our online shopping site are our
Genuine Bayberry Candles. They are available in 6" (approx 3 hours burn time) and 8" (approx 4 hours burn time) and come in an attractive gift box with the Brown & Hopkins logo and the following legend......"A bayberry candle burned to the socket, puts luck in the home, food in the larder, and gold in the pocket". Burned to the nub on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve,
they bring good luck for the coming year. Now couldn't we all use a little of that!?

When colonial families settled on the Eastern seaboard, they set about on their “women’s work”. Each day, the women of the house were responsible for the cooking, cleaning and care of the home. In late fall, as the animals were slaughtered, women would begin making candles for the following year. The average home would require approximately 200 - 400 candles to illuminate the home for a year. Tallow, or animal fat, was collected throughout the year, but slaughter always brought more fat to the home. As candle making was grueling and smelly work, the bulk of it was done in a single day.

Tallow can be quite foul after a few weeks. Imagine how much worse it must be after several months! In more affluent homes, the women would make candles from beeswax or bayberry wax, as the aroma was far sweeter than anything an animal would leave behind.

Women would gather bushels of bayberries and boil them for several hours. This heating process allowed the waxy substance to seep from the berries. As the wax has a natural buoyancy, the wax floated to the top of the kettle. Once the wax cooled, it was skimmed off much the same way we skim chicken fat from cooled broth today. It takes approximately 15 pounds of bayberries to render one pound of wax. Bayberry wax is brittle by nature, and prone to “blooming”, which is a white powdery residue that forms on the outside of the candle after several months. Candles had to be stored in a cool flat place to protect their fragile shape.

Over time, chandlers made their rounds, relieving women of the chore of candle making. Thank goodness I wasn't a colonial woman......because if Bruce needed me to make candles from animal fat, well, let's just say......we would have been living in a very dark home!!!

Eventually, molds and paraffins were developed to replace tallow and chandlers altogether.
Our true bayberry taper candles make a very nice hostess gift on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve.


Pam at Antique or Not said...

How educational! Thanks for sharing, Liz.

WoolenSails said...

Hoping to take a trip up that way this saturday.
Do you sell the candle holders? Everywhere I go, they have one of each type, would like a pair;)

I didn't realize chepachet was right above foster, we were up that way last weekend. Beautiful drive up 102 and no traffic or crowds.