Before the streets of Charleston and many other cities were lit with electric arc lighting in the late 19th century, illuminating the night was a challenging proposition. The earliest attempts at making safer and more convenient for travelers included mounting flaming lanterns on homes or posts or carrying a candle or torch. Once oil lamps and later gas lamps came into vogue, they shared common problems with candle-powered lanterns and torches; the flame they produced was susceptible to being blown out by wind. This sudden outage that could return a place to darkness when the flame blew out so that the lamps needed to be individually relit by lamplighters, but sparks could set nearby buildings and foliage on fire. For gas lights, the additional risk was that the gas line could rupture. Adding a yoke or bail as a suspension frame became a popular way to stabilize lanterns so that the light is not easily be blown out.
At Lantern and Scroll, a company that makes reproductions of classic lantern, hanging yoke lanterns from the Charleston Collection, as well as the Ashley Street, NeoCharleston, and Tradd Street Collections, are popular items for lighting both interior and exterior spaces.
Why Yokes Are Used In Lighting
In the lighting field, a yoke resembles the handle found on lanterns carried by hand, but the concept of the yoke was derived from its use in animal husbandry. Farmers and other professionals who deal with livestock would bind oxen, horses, or other animals together with a wood or metal cross piece make them work together to drag a load, pull a wagon, till a field, or perform another task. In Asian countries, water buffalo are fitted with lots of good and a single bow-shaped yoke positioned around the withers or shoulders to allow one person to harness the animals power for plowing. This concept of harnessing or binding power was adapted industry where Y-shaped parts are created to provide support and both sides of another part attached to the yoke. For example, a yoke on an industrial monitor allows the device to swivel, while a stainless steel Y made as in internal part of a nail gun balances the tool.
When a yoke is installed to intersect to sides of a lantern, the effect is to make the fixture more stable and more resistant to wind. Having yokes on some early streetlights reduced the number of times that lamplighters had to attend to them. In addition, the yoke along with the arms and brackets that support the light and attach it to a pole served as support for the ladders that lamplighters used to do their jobs.
Modern Hanging Yoke Lights
Despite its usefulness, the yoke was not used on most yard lights or streetlights of the past. Now, while having a yoke bracket can prevent a gas light from swinging in the wind, the yoke is most often used as a decorative addition to many lights, especially those designed to hang from the ceiling. Modern gas lights have excellent seals between the metal frame and side glass panels that helps keep the flame lit. In particularly windy areas, they often have a secondary wind guard that attaches to the gas jet assembly.
Because yokes are usually decorative, they are even used on electric lanterns which do not have a problem with the flame blowing out or getting excessively hot as gas lanterns do. Having a yoke on the light adds to the appeal and drama of the fixture as well as adding length.
Using Yoke Lights For The Interior And Exterior Of Your Home
Hanging yoke lights are beautiful inside and outside the house. While gas lights of this type are best used outdoors, electrified versions are an excellent choice in or out. When you need an impressive fixture for a broad expanse, the yoke light uses both horizontal and vertical space create statement lighting.
Because Lantern and Scroll offers yoke lighting for use in kitchens, dining rooms, sunrooms, porches, and for years, you will find a yoke fixture of the proper scale to meet your needs. Most of our yoke collection comes with your choice of a medium base socket with chimney and two or three light clusters for electric fixtures and with a single brass burner, or a liquid propane gas burner for gas models. Most fixtures are available in either gas or electric, you can install a gas model outdoors, along with matching electric models inside the house.
We typically suggest that a plumber or other licensed professional install a gas line that will power the lantern. When a modern gas lantern has a yoke, the gas line is run through the lantern and fastened to the inside of the yoke. It is very important to install the lantern with the proper clearance between the ceiling material and the stack of the lantern. The reason is that the gas escaping from the top of the lantern can reach temperatures of 400 to 500 degrees. Local codes often require 12-18″ of clearance and also state that bottom of the lantern be 7′ from the ground prevent injury to those below. As a result, the lantern with a 20″ yoke might have a 12″ stem attached to the top of the yoke, with an additional 6″ from the cap of the lantern to meet clearance requirements. The total length of the lantern from the ceiling is typically 36″ or more.
Other Options From Lantern and Scroll
Our exterior fixtures are available in solid copper, aged bronze, and black powder coated finishes. For interior fixtures that subject to harsh exterior weather conditions, we offer a range of metallic and decorator colors including silver, white, and several shades of blue and grey. For gas fixtures, the interior electrical components are, while for electric, they can be bronze, black, silver, or white.
If you think a yoke light is a fixture you want, give us a call or visit our showroom for a personal consultation based on your space and style of your home.