#AceHistoryNews says lamplighter, historically, was an employee of a town who lit street lights. Lights were lit each evening, generally with a wick on a long-pole. At dawn, they would return to put them out using a small hook on the same pole. Early street lights were generally candles, oil, and similar consumable liquid or solid lighting sources with wicks.
Another lamplighter duty was to carry a ladder and renew the candles, oil, or gas mantles.
Watchmen were groups of men, usually authorised by a state, government, or society, to deter criminal activity and provide law enforcement. Watchmen have existed in various guises throughout the world and were generally succeeded by the emergence of formerly organised policing.
In the 19th century, gas lights became the dominant form of street lighting. Early gaslights required lamplighters, but eventually systems were developed which allowed the lights to operate automatically.
Gas lighting is production of artificial light from combustion of a gaseous fuel, including hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, propane, butane, acetylene, ethylene, or natural gas. Before electricity became sufficiently widespread and economical to allow for general public use, gas was the most popular means of lighting in cities and suburbs. Early gas lights had to be lit manually, but later gas lights were self-igniting.
Early lighting fuels consisted of olive oil, beeswax, fish oil, whale oil, sesame oil, nut oil, and similar substances. These were the most commonly used fuels until the late 18th century. Chinese records dating back 1700 years note the use of natural gas in the home for light and heat via bamboo pipes to the dwellings.
Public illumination preceded the discovery and adoption of gaslight by centuries. In 1417, Sir Henry Barton, Mayor of London, ordained “lanterns with lights to be hanged out on the winter evenings between Hallowtide and Candlemasse.” Paris was first lit by an order issued in 1524, and, in the beginning of the 16th century, the inhabitants were ordered to keep lights burning in the windows of all houses that faced the streets. In 1668, when some regulations were made for improving the streets of London, the residents were reminded to hang out their lanterns at the usual time, and, in 1690, an order was issued to hang out a light, or lamp, every night as soon as it was dark, from Michaelmas to Christmas. By an Act of the Common Council in 1716, all housekeepers, whose houses faced any street, lane, or passage, were required to hang out, every dark night, one or more lights, to burn from six to eleven o’clock, under the penalty of one shilling as a fine for failing to do so.
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