Shoptalk—deciphering architectural and historic preservation jargon one word at a time!
self-contained device that generates acetylene gas, by mixing calcium carbide and water, to be burned for light and heat (Sources: 1. Gas Lighting – Beyond the City, Old House Web. 2. Acetylene: The Principles of its Generation and Use, F.H. Leeds & W.J. Atkinson Butterfield, 1903.)
Examples: Coal gas was commonly used in large cities to provide light and heat in the 19th century. In fact, Baltimore, Maryland installed the first gas streetlight system in the United States in 1816. The first private residence in the U.S. to use gas for lighting was in Philadelphia.
During that time it wasn’t easy or cost effective to supply rural, isolated areas with coal gas for light and heat. Fortunately for those in rural areas, acetylene was rediscovered in the 1860s and inventors in the 1890s developed acetylene generators. These generators could be placed in commercial buildings or houses with supply lines running from the generators to appliances such as acetylene gas lamps.
Acetylene generators generally used one of two methods as diagramed below. Figure 209 shows the carbide added to water method and figure 2010 shows the water added to carbide method. (Source: Mechanics of the Household, Page 298, E.S. Keene, 1918.)
Figure 212 shows a home with a acetylene generator feeding heating as well as both indoor and outdoor lighting. (Source: Mechanics of the Household, Page 301, E.S. Keene, 1918.)