In these days, when oil, gas and electricity take so large a place in the lighting of the world, there is danger that the tallow dips of our grandmothers may be forgotten. Candle-making was the great housekeeping event of the fall of the year. The light and cheer of the long winter evening in every home in Marietta depended upon the candles which the frugal housewives made and stored away in boxes for the use of the family.
What a day it was for the children when the great brass kettle was brought out and hung upon the crane in the huge fireplace, where the great logs were crackling and the blaze was ascending through a chimney as large as some modern rooms. Before the dawn of the day, the whole family was astir. The great fire was lighted, the frugal breakfast was eaten, and the children were all excitement.
The kettle was first partly filled with water, and when this was hot, cakes of tallow were broken up and thrown into the water to melt and float upon the top. It was never settled to the satisfaction of the candle-makers, which which was better for giving hardness and consistency to the candles - beeswax or bayberry tallow.
The wicks had been cut the evening before, dipped in saltpeter, and twisted over wooden rods, which were kept from year to year, tied in bunches and laid above the great beams in the kitchen. These rods were place on two poles, supported by chairs, and were few or many, according to the number of candles to be made. Each rod held six or eight wicks, and the wicks were two or three inches apart.
The kettle was taken from the crane and set down near the poles. Now all was ready. Mrs. Jones, wearing a scant gown covered with a blue-checkered apron and looking very happy, took her seat on a flag-bottomed, high-backed chair beside the rods and began to work.
Beginning with the rod at her right hand, she dips the wicks deftly into the kettle and watched carefully to see that each wick hung straight and clear of the others; and so she went down the line. By the time the last rod was reached, the wicks on the first rod were cool and ready for another dipping.
The process was repeated until the slow growing candles had attained the proper size. Meanwhile the kettle had been refilled with boiling water and freshly melted tallow.
Toward the end of the pole there were always several rods filled with tiny candles to be given to the children as rewards of merit. When the children had been especially good, they were given a little candle to light them to bed. As long as it lasted they could tell stories.
It took a whole day to finish the candles. They were then left undisturbed until the next morning, when they were taken from the rods and packed away, hard and white, ready for use.