The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Do You Remember Lamplighters?

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1985

Issue: February, 1985

At one time no mantle was complete without them. They were a practical homemade item, made from paper scraps. They were "lamplighters."

My father, James Matthews of Kernersville, North Carolina, still makes lamplighters, more to keep the knowledge of how to make them alive than for practical use. They are made by rolling a piece of paper, any size, from one corner, rolling it tight as you go. The top will be looser and you turn it down, like a wick. This is the end you light. The ones my father makes are about a foot long and thin as a toothpick.

Lamplighters were kept in a jar or tin can on the mantle and used to light kerosene lamps or home-rolled cigarettes from the flame in an open fireplace.

Lamplighters were a, sign of the times when matches were not in abundance or in most people's budget. They were one small item in the everyday life of a day gone by.