Burning glasses

18th century historical research, frontier reenacting/trekking.

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Burning glasses

Postby Ken Hamilton » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:39 am

In actuality....how common were "burning glasses" (ie magnifying glass lens) on the frontier????? I mean, I see a overwhelming LACK of archaeological examples in Native sites.......so I started wondering how common they were for Euros on the Frontier too? I would think they were "rare"....but DID occasionally exist, as seen in a few tinder box lids etc....

So, although I assume most of us have one in our kit (I have several in different bags), how common were they really? Any found on inventory lists???? What Euro archaeological site are they found at (ie. fort, garrison house, battle field etc....)?

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Re: Burning glasses

Postby Bob Miller » Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:11 am

I have one in my kit, but more to aid my close in vision when looking for slivers, ticks etc I know that the HBC carried them, but I have not found any evidence of "burning glasses" in any early 18th C documents or references here in New France. I'm sure that a few were around, but I really don't believe that they were that common in the back country. Maybe more towards the 19th C ?? It's another grey day here, and we haven't had much sun in the last month or so. A "burning glass" wouldn't be of much use a lot of the time....especially when it's cold and wet and you really could use a fire :D
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Re: Burning glasses

Postby Giiwednong Naabe » Fri Apr 13, 2018 5:17 pm

They do show up on some lists,( did a quick check in some of my files) Peter Fiddler HBC mentions them on a 1795 " Standard of Trade " list ( burning glasses) , Malhiot mentions them on an 1804 list at Lac Du Flambeau " " 2 boxes with burning glasses ". Malhiot' mention gets me wondering if they weren't more commonly seen on tobacco boxes? If this is the case, tobacco boxes would probably have been something reserved perhaps more so for those of a higher social standing which may limit their numbers at known sites?

Regardless they do not appear near as common as simple fire steels from the lists that I have quickly sampled.
Last edited by Giiwednong Naabe on Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Burning glasses

Postby Ken Hamilton » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:06 pm

Thanks guys. Earlier today I was concluding that it might be a "time period issue" (ie. era)? So, like you pointed out, they seem to be more common LATER than earlier (?).....ie. more frequent after ca. 1790 then?

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Re: Burning glasses

Postby Giiwednong Naabe » Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:20 pm

Yeah, I'm looking at HBC James Knight' 1714 account book from York Factory and although I can find " glasses " , " pocket and looking " but not burning ( as of yet anyway ).

In Colin Yerbury' " The Subarctic Indians and the fur trade 1680-1860 " he tabulates the type and amount of goods purchased/traded for a geographical area for the years 1760-64 and mentions,,, "

" Besides the items mentioned in Figures 5,6 and 7, the Chipewyan purchased buttons, bayonets, firesteels, burning glasses , hats, hawksbells , rings, medals, needles, tobacco tongs, trunks, twine, scrapers, sashes, thimbles, and tobacco boxes."
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Re: Burning glasses

Postby Ohio Rusty » Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:24 pm

I have also seen looking glasses written as "a quizzing glass' but no documentation if they were ever used as a burning lens. What was the earliest year known about the tobacco box with the built in burning lens ??
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