Opium lamp lighter

ACCESSION NUMBER: 1969.315.1 a-b
Object Name: Opium lamp lighter
Manufacturer: Meriden Britannia Company
Date Made: Between 1852-1898
MeSH Code: Medical Subject Headings Narcotics; Opium


Opium is a drug derived from the poppy plant.  Before it was effectively eradicated in the early 20th century, opium smoking was an integral part of all levels of Chinese society.  The habit accompanied Chinese immigrants to other places including Canada and the United States where opium-smoking in the Chinese manner with Chinese-made paraphernalia became fashionable among non-Chinese.  This American-made silver plated opium lamp lighter is evidence how common opium smoking must have become in North America by the later 1800s.

Heat, not light was the purpose of an opium lamp. A smoker placed his opium in a special opium pipe which was vaporized by the heat of the lamp, not burned.  This opium lamp lighter was probably employed to ignite an opium lamp.

Related: The Habit

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