Everything is Illuminated in Ray City, GA

Swindle and Clements, one of the historic businesses of Ray City,  was one of the advertisers in the Jan 3, 1929 edition of the Ray City News.  An interesting note in the ad is the emphasis on “Shawinigan Carbide.”  Apparently it was one of their most important items, as the only other item specifically mentioned in the ad was Georgia Peanuts. Advertising this item shows just how little electricity had trickled down to the rural residents of Wiregrass Georgia in 1929.

Swindle and Clements 1929 newspaper advertisement from the Ray City News

Swindle and Clements 1929 newspaper advertisement from the Ray City News

What was Shawinigan Carbide?

Carbide lighting is a form of illumination that was used in rural and urban areas of the United States which were not served by electrification. Its use began before 1900 and continued past 1950. Carbide pellets  could be placed in specially constructed lamps that allowed  carefully controlled mixing with water. Wetting the carbide pellets released acetylene gas, which was then burned as the fuel for the lamp.  Alternately, the carbide could be placed  in a container outside the home, with water piped to the container and allowed to drip on the pellets creating the gas. This gas was then piped to lighting fixtures inside the house, where it was burned, creating a very bright flame. Carbide lighting was inexpensive but was prone to gas leaks and explosions.

The convenience of carbide power appealed to rural South Georgia residents like Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw, for whom electricity was inaccessible.  Doc Shaw’s place was situated on Possum Branch, near Ray City.  In an article titled Life on the Doc Shaw farm, granddaughter Gwen Shaw Watson wrote:

Grandpa Shaw was one of the first to have carbide lights. They were a step up from the oil lamps which were commonly used. Later, they had a refrigerator that ran on carbide.

Shawinigan Carbide was just one of the brand name carbide suppliers. Another, was Union Carbide:

Union Carbide advertisment, Farm Journal, 1910

Union Carbide advertisment, Farm Journal, 1910

JUST suppose, when company comes, you could pull a little chain and turn on a flood of light in a cluster of globes hanging from the parlor ceiling.

And suppose a little later you could pull another little chain and turn on a beautiful light in a colored dome hanging over the dining room table.

Pull still other chains and turn on lights in your bed rooms, your kitchen, or your cellar.

Pull another and fill your barn with light that would show up every hair, straw or buckle as plain as these things would show by daylight.

And suppose you made all the gas for these lights yourself, right on the place.

Made it so easy that the work required only fifteen minutes of your time once a month.

Make it so cheaply that the light costs you no more than kerosene.

And suppose you actually used this same home-made gas as fuel for cooking on hot days or when you are in a hurry.

In other words, suppose you had a little acetylene gas plant built for country home use.

A plant that would mean no more washing or breaking of chimneys— no soot or grease to fight with—no wicks to trim, no oil to spill or burn and no coal to store or handle.

Picture the advantages In your mind’s eye—stop and think of the safety, comfort, satisfaction and happiness it would bring to your family.

Do this and you will understand why it is that over one hundred and seventy-six thousand farm houses have been equipped with Acetylene gas to date. Consider also that these one hundred and seventy-six thousand country home owners simply followed the lead of over twenty million city people who have used gas so long that they don’t know what an oil lamp looks like.

Like these city friends, you wouldn’t keep

your oil lamps If city gas could be piped to your place, and this new rural gas, “Acetylene,” beats city gas all hollow in forty ways.

Unlike city gas, your Acetylene will not be poisonous to breathe—you can sleep all night In a room with an open burner with no injurious effects whatever.

Volume for volume, your Acetylene will give ten times more light than your city cousin gets from the best city gas.

Then when you use it as a fuel, your Acetylene will be delivered right in your cooking appliance, where it will supply heat on tap that you can regulate with a thumb screw.

The crushed stone you will use in making your Acetylene is known commercially as Union Carbide, and is sold at factory prices and shipped direct to you from the company’s own warehouse located In your district.

Union Carbide won’t burn—can’t explode, and will keep for years In any climate.

Once a month you will have to drop a few pounds of Union Carbide in one part and a few gallons of water in another part of a small tank-like machine that sets in your basement or in an out-bulldlng.

Genuine Acetylene is produced from just Union Carbide and plain water.

Won’t you let us tell you how little it will cost to make this wonderful light and fuel yourself for your home and all the other buildings on your place? Write us how many rooms yon have, and we will send you free some mighty interesting booklets and give you an estimate as to the cost of a machine and lighting fixtures suited to your requirements.

Just address UNION CARBIDE SALES COMPANY, Dept. C—, 161 Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ills.

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1 Comment

  1. February 12, 2011 at 5:35 am

    […] We casually visited the firm of Swindle and Clements and were surprised to find the class of merchandise that a large force of clerks were busy […]


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