The History of the Candle

We appreciate candles all of the time but how much do we really know about them?  Who invented them?  When did they first appear?  How were they made?  These questions are rather difficult because there is no real specific answer.  However, the history of the candle is quite intriguing.  Candles have been around for thousands of years and have been used for many different reasons and traditions.  Read along to find out more about how the candles you see in your home eventually came to be!

Who Invented the Candle?

There is no real inventor of the candle.  The candle is believed to have first been cast by the Ancient Egyptians.  They used a series of torches made out of core reeds in melted tallow.  However, these candles did not resemble the candles we are accustomed to seeing today because of the form and the absence of the wick.  The Romans are normally credited with the “invention” of the modern day candle as they were the first to extract and melt the tallow of sheep and cattle and pour it over fibrous materials creating a candle with a wick.  Candles were used in religious ceremonies and to light their way, especially for traveling.

The Turning Point of the Candle

During the middle ages, beeswax was introduced into candle making.  Candles made out of beeswax were a major turning point since the candles began to burn longer but also did not emit a putrid smell or dull flame while burning.  Bayberry candles were also popular but since their method of extraction was so tedious their popularity soon faded away. 

Candles in the 18th Century

It was not until the 18th century when candles were once again improved.  A new material was being offered in mass amounts called spermaceti.  Spermaceti is crystallized sperm whale oil.  This wax was particularly favorable because it burned clean (without odor) and because it was resistant to heat meaning it would not bend due to the climate like the beeswax and tallow candles.  Many believe that the first issued modern candles were those made out of spermaceti wax.

The Commencement of Modern Day Candle Making

In the 19th century, candle molds first began to appear.  In 1834, Joseph Morgan invented a machine to create candle molds by using a cylinder with a movable piston that cast out the candles when they hardened.  In 1850 Paraffin wax became available from oil and coal shales, which was the most economical form of wax.   Stearic acid was also appearing at this time which enabled the paraffin wax to melt at a higher melting point.

The Candle’s Challenger

At the end of the 19th century candle making was at a risk since the light bulb was invented.  However, during the first half of the 20th century in the United States the candle survived as the ingredients for candle making were available in large quantities as by products of the meatpacking industry, which was also on the rise.

Nowadays, we rarely rely on the candle as our main source of lighting yet in many homes all around the world we can find these special adornments.  Candles are still widely used in religious ceremonies and even for relaxation purposes.  Plus, when the lights go out, those back up candles come in quite handy!