Candle Making In Colonial America Answer

History and Significance of Candle Making

Candle making was an important craft practiced in Colonial America. Candles provided an essential source of illumination before the invention of electricity. Candles were also very valuable in Colonial America because they were considered symbols of wealth, with wealthier families able to outshine poorer homes with their candles.

Colonial American candles were typically made from ‘tallow’, animal fats rendered as a liquid to be shaped into solid form, or from beeswax later used in higher quality wax candles. As tallow was less expensive than beeswax, it was usually what households used for candle making. Candle wicks were usually made from braided cotton threads and beeswax dipped wicks provided greater light intensity and longer life than cotton-filled ones.

In addition to being a practical instrument for providing light at night, the use of candlelight had social and cultural significance in Colonial American life. Candles acted as a measure for time; entire mornings would be devoted just to preparing them to last the entire day’s activities until sunset. Furthermore, due to their expense only wealthy households would light multiple candles rather than relying on one single thing of light – demonstrating and reinforcing one’s social status among peers through the number of lit candles burned on a given night thus became commonplace and even necessary. Similarly, lighting a single candle could also serve as a gesture of hospitality – notably welcomed guests who’d come to enjoy conversations and company while gathered under the warm glow cast by flaming candles around tables into the wee hours of night or morning.

Who Made Candles & How

In colonial America, candle making was an important part of everyday life. Candles were made from a variety of materials such as beeswax, tallow (rendered fat and wax from sheep or cattle), animal fats, bayberries, and also whale oil. These materials were used to make both dipped-style candles by repeatedly dipping wicks into molten wax and molded candles by pouring molten wax into molds. Those using animal fats were most popular due to their availability and affordability, however many people preferred beeswax for the better quality it produced in terms of both the light it gave off as well as its enduring scent. Tallow candles typically had more smoke than other types of candles so they could become unpleasant if used too widely. As with other candle makers, women in colonial America had a significant role in producing candles for their families as well as for sale at marketplaces.

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Popular Waxes and Tallow

Candle making in Colonial America was something many families did in order to light their homes. Popular waxes used were beeswax and tallow. Beeswax was mainly obtained from colonies that kept hives of bees and it was harvested from the haphazard produced from the honeycomb and other parts of the hive itself. Tallow was made by boiling beef or mutton suet until the fat separated, then is collected and cooled for use in making candles. This material could be traded to other colonies who didn’t have an abundance of it or found it difficult to obtain. Both or these materials were combined with hardening agents such as resin or clay, as well as smoke inhibitors which are created from additives like eggs whites, salt water, or whiskey which were then used to make candles.


In Colonial America, the most popular fragrances for candles were floral scents such as lavender, rose and jasmine. These scents were derived from natural sources like flowers and resins. Many people also used herbal-based scented candles made from cedarwood, sage and juniper berry. Salted butter candles were also a popular choice because of their pleasant aroma.

Today, there is a much broader range of fragrances to choose from when making candles. Elements such as musk, sandalwood and other woody notes have been added to create more modern aromas. Fruity smells like pineapple or mango are also popular choices, while citrus blends such as orange blossom are becoming increasingly popular with consumers looking for something different. There is now an abundance of natural essential oils available that can easily be added to candle wax to create a unique scent.

Candle Molds and Designs

In Colonial America, candlemaking was an important craft and seen as symbolic of faith, safety, and hope. Some of the unique designs used to make candles in colonial times may be attributed to the local folklore or even Biblical references. The figure-eight design has a long history and is seen in many colonial-era candles. It represented infinity and eternity, invoking ideas of continuity within the homes and families where these candles were found. A popular symbol found on many colonial candles was the crown – it showed that Christ had risen as King over all other gods. Yielding sickles were also common symbols, which invoked notions of devotion and prosperity. Lastly, curved downturned swords were often featured on colonial-era candles; they signified justice, honor, strength, courage, and integrity in the homes which held these candles aloft.

Purpose of Candle Making

Candle making in colonial America was a time-honored tradition that provided much needed light at night. It was not only a useful source of illumination but it symbolized hope, faith, and renewal. Its importance is especially highlighted during holidays such as Christmas and Easter. During the colonial period of American history, most people used only candlelight for any evening activity if they had access to it. Candles were necessary for reading as well as household chores and emergency work that may be needed at night.

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Colonial Americans made candles from animal fat or purified lard called tallow, which produced an inexpensive but smoky-smelling light. Beeswax was considered too expensive for everyday use by most households during this time period, but it was often reserved for special occasions such as holidays due to its sweeter scent and longer burning capabilities. Consumers could purchase these fragrant candles from chandlers, who were important local businesses in the community that produced and sold candles as well as soap and lamp oil. Because of the scarcity of beeswax and butter fat materials required to make tallow candles, Christmas typically brought a greater demand leading up to the holiday season with housewives often making extra batches earlier in the year.

In many Christian denominations during this era, candles played an important role in Christmas services with wooden footlights casting their light on choir members while singing carols throughout churches around town. Ancient Easter customs also included both religious and secular candlelight ceremonies which continued into modern times inspiring joyous celebrations of renewal after winter’s darkness passed away into the season of life-giving spring warmth and new beginnings.


Candle making in Colonial America was a necessary skill for practical uses and religious significance. Candles were used for cooking, heating, and providing light when there was no electricity. Additionally, candles held religious significance as they were often used during occasions such as baptisms and funerals. Lastly, candles had ceremonial purposes during festivals and holidays to add ambiance and beauty. The materials needed to make candles included tallow, cotton wicks, vessels to cook the tallow in, knives and molds to shape it into different forms. As candle making was a common part of everyday life in Colonial America, it became even more important during times of darkness as many households had no access to electricity.

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