Many changes occured through the years to improve the effectiveness of the light illuminated. Finally in 1840 a new type of small, fat candle was developed. These candles were encased with paper and set in a saucer of water to burn for any hours. (It was also speculated that the water helped reduce the danger of fire, a common tragedy of the Victorian era.)
Samuel Clarke was one of several designers in England working on lighting devices. His patent, dated December 14, 1885, appears to be the basis of all fairy lamps. The patent describes a glass cup covered witha dome. In his patent he states that his improvements allow the light of the candle to be reflected through the dome and allows light to pass through the melted material.
It is not known for sure why Clarke decided to use a fairy as his trademark. We can only assume that the light reminded him of a a fairy twinkling in the darkness. His original candle cups have a fairy embossed on the bottom. Clarke's fairy lamps became so popular that all small candle lamps today are simply referred to as "fairy lights".
Fairy lamps were extremely popular during the 1880s and '90s. and continued to be popular inot the early 1900s. Popularity faded in the '20s. Fairy lamps continued to be made as decorative items. All production ended in the 1940s.
During the 1950s the Fenton Art Glass company revived the fairy lamp. Since that time hundreds have been made in many shapes, colors and sizes. They still make fairy lamps today. Other glass companies have also made fairy lamps: Westmoreland, Viking, Indiana, LG Wright, Mosser and LE Smith among them.
Now, one hundred years later, Clarke's fairy lamps are still as popular as theywere back in the 1880s and '90s! Aet glass collectors as well as fairy lamp and lighting specialists seek out examples in everything from satinized cranberry to peachblow glass. -Debbie Coe