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18th Century Betty Lamp From the Virginia Frontier

My metal detecting buddy Bill Burns found this scrap of iron near the cave spring at Byrnside’s Fort. After finding it, he set it on top of a fence post, believing it to be farm junk. After noticing it on top of the fence about a year later, I immediately suspected this to be an early “Betty Lamp,” a type of grease-based lighting device. Basically an iron lamp with a bowl for some type of grease for fuel, a lid of some sort, and a spot for a wick. The shape is right. You can see that there was a hollow reservoir at some point, with a hinged lid. You can see the remnants of the curved upright handle, which would hang on an iron hanger of some sort. This would have been forged out of wrought iron by a blacksmith, and would be consistent with the lighting options available at Byrnside’s Fort during the fort occupation of the site, circa 1770-1782. It also could have been early 19th century. But it’s primitive construction suggests earlier, to me.

“Fire Strikers,” a.k.a., “Strike-a-Lites” in the American fur trade

A popular tool in the days of the 18th century North American frontier was the “fire striker, or “strike-a-lite,” or “fire steel” or, well there are a number of names for these things. The purpose is obviously to start a fire. The design is simple: a piece of carbon steel, which is struck against a piece of flint, chert, or similar rock, thus making sparks, which would then fall onto some sort of tinder, thus creating fire.

French Trade Axes

Most trade axes found on French influenced archaeological sites were manufactured in France. The sites where trade axes were found coincides exactly with the areas where French influence was felt : Saint-Lawrence valley, the Richelieu and the Lac Champlain region, the Great-Lakes region, south of the Mississippi, etc. In isolated cases, a few French style axes have been found on the east coast of the United States. Some east coast areas must have had provisional, or secondary, trade routes for the French trade goods.