Pottery Lamp

This clay lamp has a rounded body with a looped handle. The lamp has a small hole in the middle that was used for filling the lamp with oil.
Electric cap lamp inventor Grant Wheat’s personal collection of mining lamps was donated to the museum in 1962. Many of these objects were depicted in his “Story of Underground Lighting” published in the “Proceedings of the Illinois Mining Institute” in 1945. This lamp is sixth in his chronological development of underground lighting, and he claims that the lamp is an “original pottery lamp used by the Christians in the Catacombs. Among early mining operations on record are the plaster mines of Rome known as the Catacombs. The product of these mines was soft stone or volcanic deposit of a kind of lava. It was porous and absorbed odors. When pulverized and mixed with other materials and water it was used in laying the brick in building ancient Rome, some walls which stand today. These mines were dig with olive oil lamps. It was in these mines that St. Peter converted the early Christians.”
Currently not on view
overall: 2 3/8 in x 4 1/2 in x 3 1/2 in; 6.096 cm x 11.43 cm x 8.89 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Mary R. Wheat
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mining
Industry & Manufacturing
Grant Wheat Collection
Mining Lamps
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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