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Candle Power

While there is no historical record of the first candles, clay candle holders dating from the 4th century B.C. have been found in Egypt. It is the Romans who are credited with developing the wick candle, using it to aid travelers and lighting homes and places of worship at night.

Early Asian candles were made with wax derived from insects and seeds molded in paper tubes. The first known candle in America dates to the first century A.D. Native Americans burned oily fish (candlefish) wedged into a forked stick. Colonial American women discovered that boiling bayberries produced a sweet-smelling wax that burned clean, but the process was tedious.

Present-day candle making techniques began in the 13th century when traveling chandlers went door to door making dipped tapers from their clients tallow or beeswax. In 15th century Paris, the first molds for candle making were utilized. Tallow, made by rendering animal fat, was another common candle making material. Because they burned pure and clean, the more expensive beeswax candles were preferred. In the 1800s, paraffin replaced tallow. Early candles sometimes had peculiar shapes to make the most of available resources, but today’s candles bear little resemblance to those tapers. Candle molding machines were developed in the first half of the 19th century, and braided wicks were introduced. With the introduction of the light bulb in 1879, candle use declined until the turn of the century when a renewed popularity for candles emerged.

Today, candles symbolize celebration, mark romance, define ceremony and accent decor. There are even light bulbs in candles. Candle Facts Candle power is a measurement of light output or intensity of a single candle. Candle sales increase substantially during the 4th quarter due to the holidays (including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa). Candle manufacturers’ surveys show that 96% of all candles purchased are bought by women. Candles should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place and, for tapers, in a flat position to prevent warping.

When stored properly, candles can be enjoyed for years and play an important role in traditions. Though modern candle-making processes vary, most candles are made through the process of placing a cotton wick into wax which is then molded, dipped, extruded, pressed, rolled and drawn or filled into a desired shape and size.