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"I should be glad to receive a dozen other patent lamps for the Hall, entries, and Stairs, of my house. These lamps, it is said, consume their own smoke - do no injury to furniture - give more light - and are cheaper than candles. Order a sufficiency of spare glasses and an abundance of wicks." - George Washington to Gouverneur Morris, New York, March 1, 1790

In September 1787, Philadelphian Eliza Powell sent George Washington an Argand "reflecting lamp for your hall." Noting that "one of these Lamps gives more Light than Three Spermaceti or Six Tallow Candles," she concluded it offered "an immense saving in any one Article of Family Use." Mrs. Powell's gift clearly impressed Washington, as three years later he ordered fourteen Argand table lamps and twelve wall lamps for his executive residence in New York. He brought the lamps with him to Philadelphia and Mount Vernon. His accounts record the wall-mounted lamps as "oval Japan," or japanned, referring to the original surface that imitated fashionable Japanese and Chinese imported lacquerware. This is the only one of the dozen wall lamps known to survive.


Single-arm Argand-type wall lamp or sconce with mirrored oval reflector with pineapple finial. The reflector serves as the oil reservoir, which is accessed by the finial, and connects to the gravity-fed, cylindrical, central-draft burner by a scrolling fuel tube with three scrolled cusps. Draft tube is pierced with vertical vents around its base for air intake; drip pan or saucer attached below. Burner is fitted with rack-and-pinion mechanism for elevating the wick and a metal wire chimney holder. Tall, cylindrical, clear glass chimney (replacement).


c. 1790



Iron, possibly tin, copper alloy, silver, lead, mirrored glass, lacquer, paint


Overall: 14 1/2 in. x 8 1/2 in. x 9 1/4 in. (36.83 cm x 21.59 cm x 23.5 cm)
Overall (Finial): 1 7/8 in. x 1 15/16 in. x 1 1/8 in. (4.76 cm x 4.92 cm x 2.86 cm)
Overall (Burner): 12 in. x 4 1/8 in. (30.48 cm x 10.48 cm)

Credit Line

Purchase, 1959

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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