Date: Sat, 5 Oct 1996 14:27:48 EDT
From: Charles & Mary Boewe boewes[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]JUNO.COM
Allen Maberry's grandfather probably remembered cars that were
hand-cranked to start, got their ignition spark from a magneto rather
than a storage battery, and illuminated the roadway ahead by means of
Most lighting devices that burn hydrocarbons have been called lamps.
Whale oil lamps, kerosene lamps, gas lamps. Early automobiles--when they
had lights at all, for headlamps at first were an add-on
accessory--burned acetylene in their large, brass headlamps.
This colorless gas (which has a foul odor) was generated in the lamps
themselves, by water dripping on a lump of calcium carbide. It was a
process not without hazards; harmless but loud 4th-of-July canons
generate acetylene by the same process, then cause it to explode.
Some notion of how effective acetylene lamps could be comes from
remembering that welding torches still burn acetylene (though under
pressure and in the presence of pressurized oxygen).
Early cars (especially closed ones) sometimes also had small oil-burning
lamps on each side. These, of course, descended from the carriage lamps
formerly affixed to the sides of horse-drawn carriages, where they served
no other purpose than to make known the presence of the carriage,
somewhat as running lights do ships (or, for that matter, airplanes).
They did not illuminate the road. This form comes down to us as
"carriage lamps" mounted beside the door of a house.