Gas Lighting Did Not Appeal to Those Who Had Servants to Light Their Candles

(p. 123) Gas was particularly popular in America and Britain. By 1850 it was available in most large cities in both countries. Gas remained, however, a (p. 124) middle-class indulgence. The poor couldn’t afford it and the rich tended to disdain it, partly because of the cost and disruption of installing it and partly because of the damage it did to paintings and precious fabrics, and partly because when you have servants to do everything for you already there isn’t the same urgency to invest in further conveniences. The ironic upshot, as Mark Girouard has noted, is that not only middle-class homes but institutions like lunatic asylums and prisons tended to be better lit – and, come to that, better warmed – long before England’s stateliest homes were.

Source:
Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

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