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Do You Know What A Gas Lantern Mantle Is?

Do you know what a gas lantern mantle is?

Gas lanterns, or gas lamps, are popular around here in neighborhoods that are made to look old fashioned.

They provide the street lights via little pear-shaped cones called mantles. 

You can see two mantles in the street lamp in the front yard of this house. 

One mantle was lit, and the other damaged to the point where it would no longer provide light. 

When the mantles get too old, or brittle, they no longer have a structure and can no longer glow or get bright.

Also called incandescent gas mantles, gas mantles, or Welsbach mantles, they are exactly similar to the little camping lanterns I used as a Boy Scout decades ago.  As children we were exposed to highly flammable lantern fluid, and the little incandescent mantles which were radioactive.  IT'S AMAZING WE CHILDREN OF THAT ERA MADE IT TO ADULTHOOD... (says he with utter sarcasm**).

The mantles were radioactive?  The little pouches are/were made of silk, or synthetic silk (called rayon), and were impregnated with metal nitrates (salts) to give the mesh rigidity.  As the mesh heats up the metal salts become rigid providing structure to the mesh.  And light is produced.

Thorium dioxide was a major component, and is slightly radioactive, which in today's world would cause utter commotion and lead to safety recall thoughts except it's been proved safe.

In reality the levels of radioactivity are minimal.  But the mantles glow brightly (in the visible spectrum) and can be seen from great distances.

The modern gas mantle was invented by Carl Auer von Welsbach, a chemist who studied rare earth elements, and created the Welsbach mantle which he patented in 1885.  In 1891 he discovered that thorium dioxide produced a much whiter light and stronger mesh and reinvented his product.

Until the introduction of public electricity in the early 1900s this kind of gas lantern was used for street lighting in most cities.

My recommendation:  sometimes old-school things are used in modern contexts.  In this case the house street lights were made to look very turn of the century.  Repairing the broken mantle is not difficult, as they can be found in any sports store where camping lanterns are sold.

**  How did we children ever survive!?  My little child Timex wristwatch used radioactive radium for the hour and minute hands, and number dots, so I could tell the time in the dark.  We kids played guns almost every day.  Our gun games included cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, WWII, and Civil War.  And we had period guns for whichever game we were playing that day.  You will notice that our generation has had the LEAST problem with gun violence.  And as a Boy Scout I used a latrine at camp very similar to the one in the diagram above, which came out of my 1966 Boy Scout Manual.  We did have toilet paper, though.



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 7 commentsJay Markanich • June 14 2017 08:36AM
Do You Know What A Gas Lantern Mantle Is?
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