The Amish light switch

Did you know that Amish have light switches in their homes?

Neither did I.

Well, I should say some Amish do have switches that don’t turn anything on.  For instance, when they buy a home that was previously English-owned, then tear out the electricity, as they’d be expected to do.  The wall switches remain.

Not those.  I mean a light switch that actually brings light when you flick it.

It turns out they do, as one Amish friend informed me this past week.

First off, an Amish light.  This is what one looks like up close:

amish gas light

In the center of the glass, there is a mesh-like mantle.  Also, it’s hard to see, but there is a knob that regulates the gas on the left.

And this is what an Amish light switch looks like.  It’s the bit hanging down on the left:

amish light gas

The close-up:

amish lighter

And with just one flick…

amish light switch erik

…the lights go on.  Voila:

amish light

So easy, even an English guy like myself can do it:

amish light erik

The Amish light switch:  another in a long line of groundbreaking Amish inventions.

AND: read more on Amish lighting.

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    40 Comments

    1. Rhonda

      This is very cool! I was aware that some Amish have electricity in rented homes (that they don’t use), however, I was not aware of this invention. Thanks for showing us!

    2. Robert Gschwind
    3. Richard

      I enjoy seeing things like this, is that natural gas or propane?.Richard

    4. Marilyn in New York

      That is very interesting. It looks just like our electric lights.
      Marilyn

    5. Alice Aber

      Greetings!

      Pretty cool!! I saw something similar to this in Arthur in a shop, only they used them to light and heat the entire store. They did not have the glass glob on them though and the mesh mantles were exposed. It concerned me with the safety if a taller person were to walk through there. I could feel these things close to my head and I am not very tall.

      Do these have some sort of gas, oil or keroscene piped into them?

      Erik, its good to see your smiling face in a picture or two. 😉

      Blessings, Alice

    6. Yes, we had some fun with this one. In reality I don’t know how many homes you’ll find this kind of “switch” in.

      I was kind of joking around at the end, but I should add too that Amish have created quite a few other useful inventions to achieve certain tasks within the limits of the Ordnung.

      In any case I thought this simple solution was a pretty clever way to not lose your lighter!

    7. Amish propane lights designed for safety

      Richard that is propane. These particular lights are apparently pretty good for safety; they’re designed so you don’t have a whole lot of the propane coming at one time, and the tank is outside of course.

      Alice that is a good observation, thanks for reminding me. You do see the open exposed ones as well. They burn pretty hot, so have to be careful around those!

      The other challenge with these is that they of course generate heat. Pretty nice in the winter, but pretty toasty in the summer.

    8. Pretty cool, never seen one with a “bic switch” like that….Amish ingenuity never ceases to amaze!:)

    9. Alice Aber

      Erik,,,, we have posts disappearing here. Two I got emails for that showed they were posted and my own that I posted earlier is not here. Weird!!

      Alice

    10. Alice Aber

      Wow, now they are here,,, I think I have a ghost or something, LOL.

      Propane was the word I was trying to think of earlier, LOL. OK, I am having a dingy day, don’t mind me.

      Going to my corner now and try to figure out how a post could not be there one minute and there the next without changing or refreshing the page. Scratching head and totally confused.

      Alice

    11. Alice, no worries…You scared me for a second, thought I was going to be on the phone again to India all day!

      I forgot to tell you I actually have a special feature that “flicks” comments on and off, just to make it interesting…just kidding of course. I don’t know how popular that one would be 😉

    12. Alice Aber

      LOL, Erik, I am not sure what happened. I really don’t think I am losing my mind but I guess maybe I could be. LOL. Everything looks fine now so who knows? 😉

    13. Richard

      I thought it was propane, thanks Eric. recieved alittle snow here in the Lancaster area, id better get to work. Ill drop by later. Richard.Pennsylvania.

    14. Alice Aber

      They said it was going to snow here too but it didn’t, LOL. Did you shovel before heading to work Richard? LOL

      Alice

    15. Bob Rosier

      It just goes to show, if resources are limited, or if there are constraints placed on you, this can becomes an opportunity to become creative. If we start thinking that everything we need has already been invented, we stop thinking and become followers.

      We didn’t need to be abstract thinkers to survive; this was something extra and unique given only to the human race and we should be making more use of this gift.

      I didn’t intend to sound so profound !

    16. Gordon Bjorkman

      Quite interesting, and educational, I must say!
      Yes, the Amish are quite intelligent.

    17. Bob, bring on the profundities–yours is a great point.

      It is easy to get in a box in terms of habits of thinking. Amish often get pegged as being “boxed in”, and though they do operate within constraints, they do use their noggins to innovate in many ways.

      The thing is, we all operate under some form of constraints.

    18. Rita

      Hi Erik, I’ve been enjoying your website here. I live a few doors away from an Amish family in southern York County, but don’t really know them. This is off the light switch subject, but hope you can pass along an answer. At work this week, a group of us were discussing “Amish Bread” and how much we’ve enjoyed it when we had it, but none of us kept up with keeping the starter alive – no one to pass it on to, too expensive to keep feeding it, too overwhelming, etc. I occasionally get to the Lancaster Central Market and we were all wondering if any of the Amish stands sell starter. Thanks for the great job you do on here!

    19. Lancaster Central and other Amish markets

      Rita, I really appreciate it and glad you stop by the site. On the Amish bread starter, it’s kind of ironic but though I’ve been to probably a dozen Amish markets, the Lancaster Central Market I’ve never visited.

      I was at Reading Terminal Market in Philly with Amish friends last week, and this market came up, but they didn’t seem to know much about it. It would seem to me that it would be competing with the actual Amish businesses and stands in the county, whereas most markets are far enough off-site that they don’t have to deal with that. But, from what I know, there are Amish vendors there as well, so you might give it a shot.

      You might also check out Shrewsbury market off I-83, just a few miles from the MD border in York Co, sounds like it is not far from you. This is one of my favorite markets–a newer one, but very cheery; I’ve got some friends there, and there are quite a few Amish stands.

      They also do some creative events, like a classic car show. Not the first thing you think of when you think Amish, I know, but it gets people in the door and is quite a fun event.

    20. Marcus Yoder

      Have you seen where they put A small propane tank like you would use on the grill in A cabinet with caster’s, and plumb in A light sticking up out of the cabinet. They can wheel it around where they need it. When I stay at my Amish cousin’s house I try to remember my light out of my battery operated tool’s.
      Marcus Yoder London,Ohio

    21. Yonie Wondernose

      Bob Rosier you are right on with your comment.

      Well I gotta go. My laptop needs a full propane tank as my power is getting low.

      -sent to you from our wephone-

      We are not allowed to have iphones

    22. Richard

      Just getting back home. Yes Alice we did get alittle snow here, and i did shovel alittle. ive e-mailed you, Erik and Marilyn some pictures that i took today while on the road this morning, and of the driveway.It was only just a few inches so not bad, i roll with the punches now with winter, and i look at it in a much different way. Since my ford is rear wheel drive, i dont really drive it with any snow on the ground, so im lucky to have a 2nd car that i use for work and running around in snow. That one is front wheel drive.Lots of news happening in the world right now,with news alerts seeming to pop up every 30 mins or so. Sometimes its good to power-down and chat about the simple things, like whats on this topic in Amish America. Richard

    23. Alice Aber

      Richard, I have not gotten an email with pictures yet. Are you fibbing? LOL

      Blessings, Alice

    24. Kate

      That made me laugh a little as I just assumed all the Amish houses you went to previously had these. Do some churches not allow them? All the Amish made homes here will have those in each room (except bedrooms) and basements too for lighting. I think it’s a great idea and I’m sure I’ll be glad that we have those when I move rather than lighting a small one everytime (though I guess in my room I’ll have one). Thanks for sharing 🙂 Oh and 1 different is ours aren’t as “fancy” (for lack of a better word haha) because we don’t have the glass ball that goes over it. Great post!
      kate

    25. Richard

      Pictures have been sent, and as ford motor company likes to say “job#1”. night everyone, have a good evening. Richard

    26. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Shedding light on the situation, Amish style!

    27. Wall mounted propane lights in Amish homes

      Hi Kate, the light “switch” bit of this was actually kind of a joke, though that is really the setup my Amish friend has in his house–keeps the lighter from getting lost. I don’t recall seeing that little solution too often but I imagine other Amish do it too.

      As for the wall-mounted propane lights themselves, these wouldn’t be allowed in all Amish homes. You might see the rolling cabinet design that Marcus describes above, or in some more conservative communities, the propane light is not allowed at all.

    28. Vicki

      Rita,
      One can find a recipe for the Amish bread starter on the internet. Just google “amish bread starter.” Here is a link to one. It looks fairly easy! And it is giving me a craving for amish friendship bread!

      http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/amish-friendship-bread-starter/Detail.aspx

      Vicki

    29. Kevin

      I thought this was hilarious! Thanks for “enlightening” us.

    30. Kevin, glad to shed whatever light I could on the subject. Sometimes my posts cover serious subjects, in others I try to have a lighter touch. Sometimes my jokes aren’t the brightest, but at least we have fun here in the comments section.

      Alright, enough of that. I’ll stop now 🙂

    31. Rich K

      With all the gas lights and appliances do the Amish use carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms? Also where can someone buy one of those lamps?

    32. Do Amish use smoke alarms?

      Rich, smoke alarms, definitely. I used to talk to Amish who’d have smoke alarm salesmen come through their communities. Apparently they were pretty high priced. But most Amish are going to have them in their homes. There is what I would describe as a wind-up kind, and then the standard battery-operated versions. I don’t know offhand how common carbon monoxide detectors are. Home fires are obviously a concern though.

      You can buy these either at a lighting shop in an Amish community, or can order them direct. I don’t have any order info readily available but maybe someone on here does.

    33. Rich K

      Thank you for the information!Glad you had a nice trip.

    34. Christina

      We have those type of propane lamps in our cabin in the beautiful northwoods of Wisconsin. All joking aside…that’s a REALLY good idea! No more rummaging around for a match or lighter. Of course, in our cabin, there’s 3 single lamps and a double one in the main room, but still–a lighter attached to every lamp.

      Rich K—www.gas-lights.com
      Brand names on these are: Paulin Humphery (I think this is the oldest, most well known company) and Falks. The design looks a little more modern now, but the light still works the same.

    35. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      No, Erik, don’t stop with the Amish funnies, you’ve sparked a light in the group, please don’t stomp out the fuse. Eh, what? 😉

      You might have covered it elsewhere, but do the Amish keep candles for use?

    36. David

      Light switch

      Erik, that is goofy. That can also double as a Polish light switch! LOL!

      1. Here in Poland I just bought a fresh pack of disposable light switches today, aka matches, to get my gas stove going and warm up my eats. Gotta have em.

    37. Carolyn B

      Just came across this post, Erik.

      You, sir, are definitely hilarious. Keep up the good work.

      1. Thanks Carolyn, I’ve got to give a lot of credit though to my friend, the owner of this magical device 🙂

    38. Abby

      Wow!

      Yes! Those things are what I was looking for. A lot of questions answered by your images and website. Thank you!!