This sleek "patent lamp" was at the forefront of style as well as lighting and manufacturing technologies when Gouverneur Morris purchased fourteen of them at George Washington's request while in London in 1790. A single piece of fused silverplate forms its classically inspired, urn-shaped body, which serves as the oil reservoir. The drop burner employs a tubular wick held between two concentric metal tubes with a glass chimney above. Genovese inventor François-Pierre Aimé Argand (1750-1803) revolutionized lighting with this deceptively simple innovation. His patented design dramatically improved airflow, thereby producing a brighter flame that burned longer and produced less smoke than earlier oil lamps and candles.


Silverplate urn-shaped Argand-type lamp with two scrolled wire handles on a tall, flared, and stepped pedestal base; elliptical body; tinned interior.

Sheet iron central draft burner with decoratively pierced silverplate top fitted with an iron and brass rack-and-pinion mechanism for elevating the wick.

Silverplate wire arm with a pinch-held silverplate horizontal hoop extending from the top.





A-C: Fused silverplate on copper and brass, base metals, iron, glass A: Fused silverplate on copper and brass, base metals B: Fused silverplate on copper and brass, base metals, iron C: Fused silverplate on copper and brass


Other (A): 6 3/16 in. x 9 7/16 in. x 4 1/4 in. (15.72 cm x 23.97 cm x 10.8 cm)
Other (B): 4 1/8 in. x 3 1/2 in. x 3 1/2 in. (10.48 cm x 8.89 cm x 8.89 cm)
Other (C): 5 3/4 in. x 2 1/16 in. x 2 1/16 in. (14.61 cm x 5.24 cm x 5.24 cm)

Credit Line

Bequest of John Parke Custis Upshur, 1952

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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