By JESSICA AVERY
In the 1860s, Thomas Jefferson Smith, his wife Julia, and their children called the Long-Smith Cottage home. During that time, people made do without many modern conveniences such as running water, air conditioning and electricity.
To help them see in the dark, many people depended on candles and kerosene, an oily, petroleum fuel, for their light source. Kerosene became an affordable and popular choice throughout the country because it provided three times the brightness of a candle flame.
While kerosene and candles provided light, the smoke they generated posed a unique challenge, as it would leave black marks on ceilings. Thus, many people created special devices like the "revolving serpent" that would fan away the smoke and "smoke bells" that would collect the soot.
Now you can create you own spinning serpent and watch it spin around and around. But, just to be on the safe side, we suggest holding it over a lightbulb instead of a flame!
The Science Behind the Spin
So what makes the serpent spin? Well, that’s science! When air is heated, it expands as its molecules begin to spread out and away from each other. In turn, the hot air begins to rise and the cooler air sinks; however, once the cooler air reaches the heat source, the process will begin again. The warm moving air spins the spiral serpent around and around. The cycle of moving air is called a convection current and these currents are all around us. They play a part in our weather, ocean temperatures and are even used to cook food in our ovens.
Make It Yourself
Fort Bend Museum Staff