A lamplighter, historically, was an employee of a town who lit street lights, generally by means of a wick on a long pole. At dawn, they would return and turn them off using a small hook on the same pole. Early street lights were generally candles, oil, and similar consumable liquid or solid lighting sources with wicks. Another lamplighter duty was to come with a ladder and renew the candles, oil, or gas mantles. In some communities, lamplighters served in a role akin to a town watchman; in others, it may have been seen as little more than a sinecure. In the 19th century, gas lights became the dominant form of street lighting. Early gaslights required lamplighters, but eventually systems were developed which allowed the lights to operate automatically.

There is a long history of the role of a lamplighter-as-lightbringer as a symbolic figure in literature.

The Burning Man festival makes use of lamplighters.

Lamplighters in Fiction

*"The Lamplighter" was an 1854 novel by Maria Susanna Cummins.
* A lamplighter, never actually seen, is the central figure in Bolesław Prus' 1885 micro-story, "Shades."
*"The Lamplighter" was a 1929 collection of poems by Irish poet Seamus O'Sullivan.
* A lamplighter who lives on an asteroid that rotates once a minute was one of the inhabitants of the universe in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 1943 novel, "The Little Prince".
* "Lamplighters" are referred to in John le Carré's novels, notably "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (1974), and "Smiley's People" (1979), frequently associated with their boss, Toby Esterhase; their job is to carry out surveillance.
* "Lamplighter" was a 1987 children's story by Bernice Thurman Hunter.
* "The Lamplighter" was a Golden Age superhero in Kurt Busiek's Astro City comic books.
*Lamplighter (comics) is also the name of a DC Comics supervillain.
*"Lamplighter" is the title of the second book in fantasy author D. M. Cornish's trilogy Monster Blood Tattoo.
*"The Lamplighter" is the name of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School's student newspaper in Lexington, Kentucky.

Other uses

*"Lamplighter" is a historic nightclub in Vancouver.
*L. Jagi Lamplighter is an American science fiction writer.
* Lamplighters Music Theatre, a San Francisco-based light opera company.
* Lamplighters Theatre, a Smyrna, Tennessee-based community theatre.
* When It's Lamp Lighting Time in the Valley, a song
*"Lamplighter" is a Jewish publication printed weekly and distributed all over Australia and New Zealand. On the web at:
*The Lamplighter group is a mathematical object.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lamplighter — Lamp light er, n. 1. One who, or that which, lights a lamp; esp., a person who in former times lighted street lamps which were illuminated by a combustible gas; such lamps are now little used, and primarily as nostalgic ornaments. [1913 Webster… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • lamplighter — [lamp′līt΄ər] n. 1. a person whose work was lighting and extinguishing gas street lamps ☆ 2. a roll of paper, a wood splinter, etc. used to light lamps …   English World dictionary

  • lamplighter — n. 1 hist. a person who lights street lamps. 2 US a spill for lighting lamps. Phrases and idioms: like a lamplighter with great speed …   Useful english dictionary

  • lamplighter — noun Date: 1750 one that lights a lamp …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • lamplighter — /lamp luy teuhr/, n. 1. a person employed to light and extinguish street lamps, esp. those burning gas. 2. a contrivance for lighting lamps. [1740 50; LAMP + LIGHTER] * * * …   Universalium

  • lamplighter — lamp|light|er [ˈlæmpˌlaıtə US ər] n someone whose job was to light lamps in the street in the past …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • lamplighter — lamp|light|er [ læmp,laıtər ] noun count someone whose job was to light lamps in the street in the past …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • lamplighter — n. person who lights street lamps; device for lighting lamps …   English contemporary dictionary

  • lamplighter — noun historical a person employed to light street gaslights by hand …   English new terms dictionary

  • lamplighter — noun (C) someone whose job was to light lamps in the street in the past …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English