Archiver > ILJACKSO > 2004-05 > 1084746908

From: Bill <>
Subject: Little Egypt Heritage, 16 May 2004, Vol 3 #19
Date: Sun, 16 May 2004 18:35:33 -0400

Little Egypt Heritage Articles
Stories of Southern Illinois
(c) Bill Oliver

16 May 2004
Vol 3 Issue: #19
ISBN: pending

Osiyo, Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen of Little Egypt,

On this date in 1975, Japanese climber Junko Tabei became the first
woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. An admiral feat.

Many of our ancestral grandmothers married very young by our modern
standards. On May the sixteenth in 1770, Marie Antoinette, age 14,
married the future King Louis XVI of France, who was 15. My Grandma's
Mother was also married at fourteen, and when she married my Great
Grandpa, it was her third marriage and she was 24 years old. Grandma
Oliver waited until she was seventeen to marry Grandpa.

As prices for gasoline rose this week to more than two dollars a gallon
and I read about the supposed reasons for this, I was reminded that
another rise in cost of a petroleum derivative occurred about the time
Grandma Oliver was six years old.

Though candles and various oils, such as whale oil, were still used, it
was in the 1860s that kerosene was in widespread use for lighting the
homes in this country. I remember kerosene lamps being used in the
homes of many of my non-city dwelling relatives. Kerosene lamps were
filthy black each morning and had to be cleaned. This was one of my
chores when visiting overnight or longer. There also was the smell of
the kerosene. The wicks needed trimming after each use. And, to top it
off, this fuel was "highly" flammable ... kerosene was dangerous.

Urban dwellers, at least those who could afford the installation and
lived near available sources, began using gaslight. It was cleaner and
much less demanding. Still, most Americans of the late 1800s could not
afford gas for lighting, and continued to use kerosene lamps. Just as
individuals could not afford gaslight, collectively they could afford
gaslight for street lights and installation in other public places, such
as schools, train stations, hospitals, government buildings. Various
types of business also could afford the installation for gaslight ...
hotels, factories, barrooms, theaters, department stores, etc.

With the invention of the incandescent electric light bulb, gas
companies went into panic mode. As electric power began to replace gas
as the illumination source, gas companies began to consolidate and raise
their prices while reducing the quality of the fuel. The year Grandma
Oliver was born [1885], the Consolidated Gas Company raised its prices a
whopping 25%. Gas company users formed Associations and in New York,
demanded that the legislature investigate price gouging.

An article in the Harper's Weekly for May 14, 1881 commented that the
gas industry "...make[s] just what gas they please, charge what they
want for it, and slap the customer's face, so to speak, if he dares to
protest against either the quality or the price."

A subsiding of public outrage occurred in New York with legislature
capping the price of gas and the establishment of new competing gas

In the early years of the last century, gas began to be used in American
homes, not for illumination, but for use in home appliances such as
stoves, water heaters and furnaces.

As we utilize new and "better" products we alter our behavior.
Technology ... the innovative technology of gas and electricity with
light fixtures throughout our homes and central heating has allowed our
family members their space, or allowed for the separation of the
family. The traditional forms of lighting with fireplaces, kerosene and
oil lamps, and candles brought the members of a family into close
proximity to each other. Always there are tradeoffs which force us into
new ways of relationships.

Speaking of such, before we owned a telephone in the home, when Grandma
needed to complain about an electric bill, she would take a twenty
minute bus ride to the corporate office to speak with a person with
authority to take action. Today it takes longer than that to reach a
"real" person at the corporate office, in whatever unknown location, who
has no authority to take any action. That's progress! <grin>

e-la-di-e-das-di ha-wi nv-wa-do-hi-ya nv-wa-to-hi-ya-da. (May you walk
in peace and harmony)




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