Glass enclosed lanterns with ornate housings provided the ideal means for lighting drafty passages in eighteenth-century homes. In 1760, George Washington ordered "1 handsome glass Lanthorne for Passage - wt. Lamps & 10 Gals. Oyl" from his London factors. Though the Chippendale style of the lantern he received in 1761 had become outmoded by the 1780s, the lantern remained in the central passage at Mount Vernon until Washington's death. Each time Washington updated the finish and furnishings of the room, the lantern received a new coat of paint, changing from black to Prussian blue in 1783, and returning to black in the 1790s.


Square japanned lantern; four sided frame composed of tinned sheet iron enclosing shaped panes of glass on each side; each side of the rectangular frame with an ogee arch with a fleur-de-lys at its peak and scalloped interior borders; fretwork galleries with an oval and diamond design are soldered at a forty-five degree angle along the length of each of the four corners of the lantern; fretwork galleries with an interlaced diamond and heart design are soldered along the sides of the base; the outer rail of the fretwork on the sides of the lantern extends above the top of the fretwork and is capped with a small brass knob; corresponding brass knobs are also soldered to the base of each rail; the interior rods of the frame extend above the lantern and are shaped into an undulating line to join a hollow ball above the center of the lantern; short scrolls are soldered below and above the bend of each rod of the upper frame; a short eye hook is mounted at the top of the ball; the base of the lantern is composed of a circular center with scalloped skirt held in place by four rectangular plates with scalloped skirts that extend from each side of the lantern; an electrified candle is mounted on top of center circular plate.


c. 1760-1761




Tinned sheet iron, brass, paint, glass


Overall: 18 in. x 12 in. x 12 in. (45.72 cm x 30.48 cm x 30.48 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Miss Mary Custis Lee, 1915

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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