Kids experience history at Friday summer camps

JACKSON, Wyo. — Just 100 years ago, Jackson residents didn’t have electric lights. They were also often short on money. In order to light up their homes, many crafted handmade candles.

Historically, candles were made from a number of different materials. Homesteaders in Jackson most likely would have used tallow (a term for rendered fat) from cows, moose or deer.

Ad announcing E.C. Benson’s new electricity services to Jackson residents. JHHSM Collection.

They would heat the tallow over a fire until it morphed from its solid to liquid form. Then they would dip wicks made from either spun hemp or clothing scraps into the tallow over and over again until a candle to the size of their liking was finished.

Occasionally, homesteaders would pour the wax into molds instead of dipping the wicks. These molds would produce candles of the exact same shape and size, perfect for special occasions.

On December 16, 1920, E.C. Benson approached town leaders — the all-women Town Council to be exact — about “flipping the switch” in Jackson. His petition was moved and seconded by councilwomen Genevieve VanVleck and Mae Deloney before being approved by Mayor Grace Miller.

Modern-day candle dipping at the Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum.

Benson was then made the sole electrician with exclusive rights to install power lines and streetlights in town. Although Benson got to work right away and brought electricity to the valley in 1921, the Jackson Hole valley wasn’t fully electrified until the 1940s.

At Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum’s Friday Summer Camps, kids entering Grades 1-3 will have the opportunity to learn how to hand dip their own candles using beeswax instead of animal fat (it smells better).

Dip by dip, kids won’t just learn about history, they will experience history firsthand. This will be just one of many history-oriented activities offered by the history museum on Fridays from July 10 – August 14 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Click Here to register your child for this Friday’s event or any future Summer Camp events through August 14.

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