Mining: Electric Light & Hats

Hutchings Museum

The Mining Exhibit at the Hutchings Museum includes a variety of electric lighting methods and helmets used in early mining projects. This exhibit features some of the lamps, flashlights and helmets displayed in the museum.

Edison Battery Cap Lamp (Box and Cord), Mine Safety Appliances Company, Circa 1915, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
Edison's cap lamp
Carbide lamps were only used for a short time before they were replaced by battery lamps. After some tragic disasters, Congress created the U.S. Bureau of Mines to improve safe working conditions in mines. The Mine Safety Appliances Company was then created, and Thomas Edison was enlisted to help invent a safe electric lighting technique. Edison created the electric cap lamp. The battery for this lamp was enclosed in a steel case and would be hung on the belt. A cord ran up the miner's back and connected to their helmet. 
Edison Battery Cap Lamp, Mine Safety Appliances Company, Circa 1915, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
Edison's electric cap lamp worked tremendously well and helped to improve miner's efficiency. As opposed to the four hours of light the carbide lamp gave, Edison's lamp provided light for over 12 hours on one charge. As miners were mainly paid on the poundage of materials they brought in, extra time they could spend mining instead of changing carbide containers was valuable. Each battery had a number that belonged to them. They would turn in their battery when their shift was over and would collect the same one the next day.
Edison Battery Tool (Silver), Archive Material, Circa 1925, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
Edison cap lamp battery tools
As technology improved, tools were created to fix and maintain that new technology. The following are three tools used on Edison's cap lamp battery.
Edison Battery Tool (Black), Archive Material, Circa 1925, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
Edison Battery Tool (Red, Archive Material, Circa 1925, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
Engine Lamp, Archive Material, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
Engine lamp
A lamp like this would have been placed on an underground engine. The two sides of this lamp have a red and green glass. The colored glass was helpful to know which direction the engine was moving. 
Hand Lamp, Archive Material, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
Battery lamps
This large heavy duty hand lamp would have been placed on an ore car, and would have traveled throughout the mine. It could have been screwed in the car through the lamp's handle or used hand-held. 
Battery Lamp, Niagara Searchlight Co., Circa 1933, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
Battery lamp
Niagara Searchlight Co. created this battery powered lantern in the early 1930s. It was used in the Ophir Mine in the 1950s.
Battery Flashlight, Archive Material, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
Battery flashlight
This flashlight was used in the Lark Mine in Lark, Utah. 
Soft Hat, Coal King, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
Hats & helmets
Helmets went through a progression as technology improved and safety concerns grew. Soft hats were used for a long time before they were replaced later by hard hats. Typically, they were made of canvas and leather, and had a metal frame attached that mounted carbide lamps and oil wick lamps. 
Hard Hat, Archive Material, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
When Congress created the Bureau of Mines and then the Mine Safety Appliances Company, their main goal was to improve safety measures in mines. The MSA replaced the soft hats and started creating and distributing hard hat helmets to miners.
Hard Hat with Electric Light, Mine Safety Co., From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
This hard hat would have been used with Edison's electric cap lamp. Later helmets become even better at using Edison's lamp with cord guides on the top and down the back. Soft hats with oil wick cap lamps had been replaced by the electric hard hat.
Hard Hat, Archive Material, From the collection of: Hutchings Museum
This hard hat is displayed with a carbide lamp, but this helmet is usable with an electric lamp as well. 
Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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