The Farmhouse Reading Room


fowl rack and betty lamps
The Betty Lamp was used for lighting from the late Middle Ages to the 1850s here in America.

betty lamp

The name Betty, was derived from the German word "besser" or "bette" meaning better. This implied that the lamp was "better" than the use of candles for lighting needs.

The ancient lamps were made of clay. As the centuries passed, iron, copper and bronze was used, depending on what was readily available.

The Betty Lamp in early America, would burn grease, fish oil, whale oil or fat, subject to what the Colonist had on hand. The New England area had access to the whale and fish oil, while the other Colonists further west, relied on grease and fat, for their lighting needs. Wicks for these lamps, were generally pieces of twisted cloth, and the lamps would smoke and smell, while dripped grease from the lamp would drop on whatever sat below it. The early lamps' wicks, usually drew up oil quicker than it burned and the surplus oil would spill over the lamp sides. The design was improved upon by creating a wick holder in the base of the lamp. This allowed the dripping from the wick to run back into the bowl and eventually that oil was consumed. This saved on ruining things below the lamp, as well as conserved on the precious commodity of oils. A cover was later added to the lamps making the design even better by confining the heat it threw off, decreasing the smoke and helping the lamp to burn more efficiently.

The Betty Lamp did a fairly good job considering there were few other lighting choices. The light given would vary with the size and the material used in the lamp. Fish oil gave very poor lighting and smoked very badly. Grease and fat were a bit better. Whale oil, usually only available in coastal locations, was the best and was comparable to the use of 2 regular candles for lighting.

Betty Lamps were most often imported from Europe for the Colonists households.


the FOWL RACK (shown abve) displaying the Betty Lamps
is fun to use in decorating today, but in earlier times, it was essential for hanging the hunted fowl......sort of a pantry in the earlier days. Today you can use to hang baskets, treenware, candles, imitation fowl, and much more.


Chandelier Hanging Information

The most important tip, is to NOT be afraid of selecting a chandelier that is ‘too’ large. Once it is hung, it may appear much smaller than you had mentally prepared for with the measurements. The proper size of the light should relate to the scale of the room, and the size of the table over which you hang it.

In average size dining rooms (about 12’ square), our manufacturer recommends using a chandelier in the range of 20-24” in diameter. In larger rooms (about 14’ square), they recommend chandeliers of at least 25-30” in diameter.


You may consider double tier fixtures after the 14’ square room and beyond. When shopping for a dining table chandelier, try to select a light, that will measure just slightly smaller than the width of your table.

The bobeche, or drip pans of the chandelier, should be about 37-39” above the table, depending on whether your preference is towards the high or low. This will place the bulb at about eye level when you are entering the room.

If you are selecting a light that will be walked beneath after hung, plan on 78” for clearance of head room. And remember, that the ceiling canopy, which arrives with each light for mounting, will add about 2” to that measurement.



Historic Stencils

Who was Moses Eaton, that created the Historic Stencils we offer?

Moses Eaton Sr. was born in 1753. He served in the Revolutionary War, and afterward settled in New Hampshire. Moses Eaton Sr. practiced the craft of stenciling to decorate his homes walls, with his handcrafted stencils while he farmed to support his family.

Moses Eaton Jr. was born in 1796. He grew up farming as his father had taught him, but also learned the craft of stenciling from his father. As a teenager, he traveled the country, offering his stenciling services, to those seeking decorative walls in their homes. When in his 20’s, he met Rufus Porter (a prolific muralist between 1825 and 1845)  and collaborated on projects with him. Moses Eaton Jr. died in his home, in 1886, at the age of 90. Family descendants continued to live in his home until 2002. Original stenciling remained yet, in one room, in the family home.