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Gaslight Ad

OVERVIEW:
This advertisement for gaslights enables students to elicit information about life in the 1880s. In analyzing the advertisement, students explore changes in lighting and interpret what people of the past thought would make their lives more comfortable. They will chart positive and negative aspects of gas lighting, why lighting was considered a "comfort" in the past, and create an advertisement for a product that will make their present home life more comfortable. Used in conjuntion with the other objects in this kit, students can place the "comforts of home" in a broader historical context.

Advertisement for Gaslights
Larger view of gaslight ad
(pop-up window)

OBJECTIVES:
Students will be able to:

  • analyze an historic advertisement for clues and information about the past
  • synthesize this information and think critically about the advantages and disadvantages of new products
  • gain understanding of how people perceive "the comforts of home"

WARM-UP ACTIVITY
Students discuss forms of lighting today and what they know about lighting options of the past.

Guiding questions:

  • Brainstorm a list of types of ways to light up a dark room nowadays. You may want to write answers on the board or on a chart pad. (flashlights, candles, lightbulbs, solar powered lights)
  • How are each of these types of light powered? (batteries, fire, electricity, the sun)
  • What do you know about how people lit up a room in the past? (without electricity, or batteries, used a lot of candles, fire)
  • Why do we need to light up a dark room? (people are afraid of the dark, need to do things in the dark such as read, eat, cook)
  • How would our lives be different if we didn't have a way to light our homes when it got dark? (you'd have to go to bed when the sun went down)

ACTIVITY #1 ANALYZING AN ADVERTISEMENT
Curriculum Standards

  • WP3 - Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • WP4 - Demonstrate self-management skills
  • LA3.1 - Speak in a variety of contexts
  • LA3.2 - Active listening, interpreting, responding
  • LA3.4 - Respond to a diversity of materials
  • S 5.4 - Understanding of technology as application of scientific principles
  • SS6.3 - Historical understanding of political ideas and forces
  • SS6.4 - Historical understanding of societal ideas and forces
  • SS6.5- Historical understanding of cultures
  • SS6.6 - Historical understanding of economic ideas and forces

Advertisements are a valuable primary source for information about the past. Show students the advertisement for "The Albo-Carbon Light" from the 1886 Newark City Directory (a city directory is similar to a modern phone book, but existed before people had telephones). Students can analyze the advertisement in small groups or as a whole class, using the following questions. The questions can be written on the board as a guide or printed out as a worksheet.

  • What do you see in the advertisement?
  • What is it an advertisement for? How can you tell?
  • List the information you can get from the advertisement about the product. (saves more than 1/2 the cost of gas; 100 - 2,000x the candle power; can be attached to any light fixture; can be used in churches, halls, public buildings, stations shops, stores, and private houses; gives three times the light obtained by burning the usual way; thousands in use in England and on the Continent)
  • How does the light work? Draw a diagram showing the parts and how you think this lamp lights up.

Students may share their answers with the other groups. Students can explore what it meant by "candle power" and what is carbonized gas as part of a science lesson.

Give students current advertisements from newspapers and telephone books and inserts in the Sunday newspapers. Have students list how the advertisements are the same and different from advertisements today (has a variety of fonts, has an image; but image is a drawing, not a photograph; no address or phone number given for company; no price for the product)

Why are the advertisements so different? (they are aimed at different audiences, and technology has changed to be able to include phone number, faxes, e-mail addresses, and photographs)

The following background information may be shared with your students:
Gaslights work much like a gas stove - there is a gas line into the home, and by turning a switch the homeowner can let the gas in; however unlike a modern stove these gaslights do not light automatically. How do you think they were lit? (someone had to do it with a match) What effect do you think this had on its safety? (because you can't see the gas and it's very combustible, it is very dangerous) Most likely there was also a mirror on the underside of the hanging "shade." What purpose would this serve? (to reflect light and therefore make it brighter)

Ask students to pretend they are considering purchasing one of these Albo-Carbon Lights. Ask students to make a list of advantages they see to purchasing the light and a list of disadvantages. What other information would they need (not found in the advertisement) to make their decision? (Possible advantages: convenience, cost, more light=more chance to do things after dark; Disadvantages: cost, danger, size)

Students may share their information with the rest of the groups.

Wrap Up

  • Why do you think gaslights such as the Albo-Carbon Light were invented? (more light at lower cost, with "new" technology)
  • How did this invention make life more comfortable? (it allowed for brighter light so people could more easily do things in the evening and night)

ACTIVITY #2 DESIGN AN ADVERTISEMENT
Curriculum Standards

  • WP3 - Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • WP4 - Demonstrate self-management skills
  • VPA1.2- Create dance, music, theater, or visual arts
  • VPA1.3 - Use arts elements and media to produce artistic performances
  • VPA1.5 - Historical, cultural, and social influences on arts
  • LA3.1 - Speak in a variety of contexts
  • LA3.2 - Active listening, interpreting, responding
  • LA3.5 - Use non-textual information and representation
  • S 5.4 - Understanding of technology as application of scientific principles
  • SS6.3 - Historical understanding of political ideas and forces
  • SS6.4 - Historical understanding of societal ideas and forces
  • SS6.5- Historical understanding of cultures
  • SS6.6 - Historical understanding of economic ideas and forces

Ask students to think of a modern convenience that they have now that makes their lives more comfortable. This could be a hair dryer, a dishwasher, a toaster, a nightlight, etc. Students should make a list of how this convenience makes their lives easier. Students can then create an advertisement for this convenience that includes some of their reasoning. The ads can be done on oaktag or paper with markers, colored pencils. Students should present these advertisements to the rest of the class.

Activity extension:
Ask students to pick one of the other objects in this loan kit and design an advertisement for it. They should think of the advantages of the object and how it makes life easier or more comfortable.

 

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