The Betty lamp is thought to be of German, Austrian, or Hungarian origin. The Betty Lamp first came into use in the 18th Century. They were commonly made of iron or brass and were most often used in the home or workshop. These lamps burned fish oil or fat trimmings and had wicks of twisted cloth.
The Betty evolved from the simple crusie lamp which was similar but did not give off as much light or work as well. A wickholder in the base was added to the crusie lamp design which channeled the drippings from the wick back into the bowl of the lamp where it could eventually be consumed. A cover was added to confine heat, decrease smoke, and make the oil burn efficiently. These changes also reduced the chance of dangerous house fires. Unlike the crusie, a second pan to catch grease was not needed on a Betty lamp. A handle attached to the opposite end from the flame that curved up to a short chain was attached to most Betty lamps as well. The chains were fitted with a hook on one end for hanging the lamp and a pick for adjusting the wick.
This better lamp design, named the Betty, from the German word, "besser" or "bete," meaning "to make better," produced a very good light for its time. The Betty lamp was used widely by the American colonists and by Europeans. In rural areas it was in use until the end of the 19th Century.
Sometimes the Betty lamp was hung from a lamp stand that was on a table or a tall iron or wooden stand that rested on the floor. Another method of elevating the Betty lamp was placing it on a turned wood or tin pedestal that sat on the table. Positioned there the lamp then illuminated the work surface or reading material of the person sitting there. Betty lamps are being made today but now most people burn olive oil or vegetable oil. They are popular with living history buffs.
Because if its association with colonial domestic activity, the Betty lamp was chosen for the symbol of the American Home Economics Association in 1926.