Carbide & Acetylene Gas.
Acetylene was discovered in 1836, when Edmund Davy, the inventor of the miners “Davey Lamp”, was experimenting with potassium carbide. One of his chemical reactions produced a flammable gas, which is now known as acetylene. In 1859, Marcel Morren successfully generated acetylene when he used carbon electrodes to strike an electric arc in an atmosphere of hydrogen. The electric arc tore carbon atoms away from the electrodes and bonded them with hydrogen atoms to form acetylene molecules. He called this gas, carbonized hydrogen.
By the late 1800s, a method had been developed for making acetylene by reacting calcium carbide with water. This generated a controlled flow of acetylene that could be combusted in air to produce a brilliant white light. Miners used carbide lanterns and carbide lamps were used for street illumination before the general availability of electric lights. In 1897, Georges Claude and A. Hess noted that acetylene gas could be safely stored by dissolving it in acetone. Nils Dalen used this new method in 1905 to develop long-burning, automated marine and railroad signal lights. In 1906, Dalen went on to develop an acetylene torch for welding and metal cutting.
The picture above is similar to the carton that we use to be able to buy from Mr. Greenslades, bicycle shop. I remember when a schoolmate at the Cookham Rise Secondary Modern School dropped a small grain of carbide in a schoolgirls inkwell. You should have heard the squeaks that came from that young lady when it started to foam like Mount Vesuvius. Mind you the teacher Miss Drew, was not amused.