When Bill Frangen’s father died of erysipelas (a bacterial skin infection) in 1898, 12-year-old Bill left school to work in the Brookside Coal Mine in Troy. His mother, a German immigrant, took in washing. Together they supported Bill’s three younger siblings.
The galvanized steel oil-wick lamp pictured here belonged to Bill. To use it, Bill filled the lamp with oil and pulled the wick through the spout to light it. Then he hung the lamp from his cap so he could see his way in the mine.
Carbide lamps replaced oil-wick lamps by 1920. Also worn on the miner’s cap, the lamp basically consisted of two chambers and a burner. Water dripped from an upper chamber to calcium carbide in a lower chamber, creating a reaction that produced acetylene gas. The miner lit the burner with a match.
Below is a picture of Bill in his mid/late-70s. Bill might be among the miners pictured above at the Brookside Coal Mine. He would be about 25 years old. Do you see him?
Edwardsville Intelligencer. Various articles.
National Museum of American History (U.S.). Behring Center. “Mining Lights and Hats.” [National Museum of American History website]. Accessed August 30, 2019. https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/mining-lights-and-hats/
United States census records and other public records.
[William Frangen obituary.] Troy Tribune, October 14, 1965.