Hanging Candles

Diego Re

Rancho Cordova, United States

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Artist's Description

The existence of a storage shop for candles, oil, and lanterns within the walls of the Fort is supported by the Kunzel map of 1846. Candles were probably manufactured in the east yard or outside the Fort walls. Tallow, which is rendered animal fat, was used for candle making at Sutter’s Fort. Tallow was generally stored in a rawhide bag sewn with the hair out, averaging 25lbs., called an arroba. Tallow was made from beef, mutton, or venison and was used not only for candles, but also for hide dressing, water proofing, lubrication, and as a base for some medicinal salves.
Wicks were cut to length and tied to sticks called broaches. Usually, two to seven wicks were secured to each broach. The tallow was melted in a double boiler and using the broach as a handle, the wicks were dipped in the melted tallow and allowed to cool on a cooling rack between dippings. It took about 30 dippings to make a decent sized candle.
If the candles had too heavy a wick, or were made too big, they would smoke and drip excessively. If the tallow was too hot, it would melt the previous coat of tallow off of the candle. If the tallow was too cool, the candle would be bumpy instead of smooth and sleek.

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