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Museum at Portland Head

Brass Oil Measure Cans used in Lighthouses

Contributed by Museum at Portland Head
MMN Item 13469 Item Details
Brass Oil Measure Cans used in Lighthouses
MMN Item 13469 Zoom


Brass oil cans were necessary in every lighthouse in the early days when whale oil and then kerosene were used to light the flame so the light could be seen out to sea. Most brass items were made by the lighthouse service but some were purchased from outside vendors which the lighthouse depot would affix a small tag to designate it as a lighthouse service item. All lighthouse service items were marked or stamped to designate they were for the service and were property of the government. These cans are marked with U.S. Light-House Establishment.

As oil was a precious commodity at the lighthouse, its use was carefully tracked by the station keeper who would then report his usage in reports to the district. Several oil measures were needed to keep track of what was poured into each lamp or can and therefore many different sizes exist.

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