Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hog Scraper Candlesticks

Here is a classic icon of American country style of decorating. What is a picture of a harvest table or painted dry sink without seeing a hog scraper candle stick on the top? You see them in all the books. But what are they? What are they made of, where do they come from, are there fakes out there and so on. Many questions for such a simple item.

The earlier hog scraper candle sticks actually were made in Europe, mostly in England, but also France and Holland. Most of the early lighting used in this country was made in Europe. This was partly because of the laws that prevented us from making our own, to protect the English manufacturers, and partly because our technology just wasn't advanced enough at the time. Hog scrapers, like much other lighting is made from tinned sheet iron, and it would take quite a force to make fine even sheets of iron, and then to mold the sheet of iron into the forms we love today. The first known patent for an American hog scraper was in 1853.

I think all the early hog scrapers had a hook extending from the top edge, called a hanger. This was to hang to candle stick from your chair back or a nearby shelf to get the light closer to your work or your book. Be careful, don't burn your wig! Actually, if you look you can sometimes see burn marks on the top slat of a chair or the the top of a settle. In the pic above on the right you can see a proper hanger. Hangers are always wider where they attach to the candle stick top. If not, see the bit about fakes below. On the left stick you can see where the original hanger was broken off. They often broke, partly I suppose because that part is fairly thin.
 Here is a pic of the base of the three main eras of hog scrapers. On the right is the earliest type, supposedly made in the 18th C. It has two "tabs" that come down through two slots in the base, and then are "cleated" or pounded over to hold the whole stick together. These 18th C sticks are the rarest on the market, as you might imagine. Maybe 1 in 50 hog scrapers are this early type. They also usually cost more. The middle base is from the classic form of hog scraper you usually see in pictures or in the market. They are made in the 19th C. still usually made in Europe. After the Revolution we began to make more of our own goods. This type has a nut that attaches to a screw that is inside the tube part, screwing it down tight to hold the whole stick together. Once in a while you see washers or other devices to hold the nut on tighter as it wore down from use. On the left is what is called the American hog scraper. These are generally considered to be made in the US. The metal is a little lighter, and you can see the ring that clips on and holds the whole thing together. So you see, if you look at the base, you can always date your hog scraper.

Here is the "donut" as seen on both the 18th and 19th C candle sticks.

Here is the ring that holds the American candle stick "tube" to the base.

Here is what is called the Wedding Band hog scraper. You can see the brass "wedding" band in the middle. Just a little glitter for that dark Colonial interior. Again these are fairly rare on the market. As you can imagine they cost more in the day, and fewer people could afford to buy them. Beware, beware! I can't find a pic to show you, but there are so many fake wedding bands out there. It is so easy to cut a hog scraper candle stick "shaft" and solder a brass ring in the middle. But if you look carefully, you can see the solder ring on each side of the brass one, which you cannot see in the old ones.

Here is a pic of a repro I copied off the internet. Note the long curved hanger. Even if this one had been left out in the rain and got rust and patina, even then you would be able to recognize it. Also, notice the donut is not made separate, but is one piece with the base.


Here a few good books I used and I recommend

Colonial Lighting                        Arthur Hayward  Dover
Candle Holders in American    Joseph Butler       Bonanza
Fire and Light in the Home       John Caspall         Antique Collector Club


  1. Judi. I appreciate your blog so much. It's never too late to learn. anonymous

  2. We almost threw one away and then decided to do some research, ours has the nut screw base. Your information was invaluable. It's a keeper.

  3. Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to discuss the hog scaper candle holders. I am always looking for info on antiques and your page helped me out tremendously.

  4. Hey Judy,

    I found two hog scrapers yesterday in an antique mall. Both appear to be of the European 19th C variety. Both have bands but are different. One has three brass bands. The other has one large black band in the middle with a small brass band on the top and bottom of the large one. Never saw one like the latter. Anyway, fun reading your blog. I went thru the house looking at all of mine. One is the American type, the others are European. None are the earliest form.

  5. How much do the america made hog scrapers go for and the 19th century and 18th century hog scrapers.? Please email me at thanks, liz

  6. Judy, have you ever had one signed Shaw Brim? It`s imprinted on the ring. Sandy at

  7. I have been collecting hog scrapper sticks for over 50 years and have come to the conclusion that if they had not been used to butcher hogs would be extremely rare today . A goodly portion of them when bought still have hog hair in the shank . I have a collection of 12 all from one old time farmstead some missing the pushup . It was very common for the farmer to snap or unscrew the pushup and also to break off the tab or hanger. These things were of no good in butchering and only got in the way . I also believe that the early clinched base type did not hold up well under the process of butchering one reason for their rarity. Yes it is true they hung them on the backs of chairs and in fact I saw a chair slat burned almost half way through . That may be why many hangers were broken off as well . Perhaps one of the most interesting that I found has an end to a Chippendale drawer pull screwed in to replace the pushup . All regular hog scrapers with wooden handles appear to be quite new made after the Civil War and it has always been my belief that they were copied for their effectiveness in removing bristles . I often laugh when I think about in the early days what the wife said to her husband when he took her holders to scrape hogs . Every farm had them only because they were adapted for another use . Praise on this one goes to the pigs for preserving our early American form of lighting. My grandfather still remembered his grandmother in the 1890's using one of these when she retired to her chamber . She was born in 1830 or 31 I believe. A stick with a saucer would have been better for this but she used what she had . Its enjoyable to here that others are intrigued by the simple things of our past . Many of the rare items were very common once , just think how rare these would be today if it were not for the pigs . Praise be to the pig. 607-547-8377