The green-shaded gas lamp depicted on page 111 of your December issue in John Steele Gordon’s article on the effects of the Industrial Revolution on Americans’ everyday lives is described as ornamented with the metal figure of a “Turkish soldier.” Any Civil War buffs among your readers will recognize that the figure is actually that of a Zouave, especially in view of the date of the lamp’s manufacture, roughly the Civil War period.
Zouaves were Algerian troops whose participation in the Franco-Austrian War of 1859 prompted numerous American militia units to emulate their colorful attire. Abraham Lincoln’s friend Elmer Ellsworth toured the Northern states with his Zouave drill team just before the outbreak of the Civil War and, commanding a Zouavegarbed regiment of New York volunteer firemen, was one of the Union’s first casualties. While most Zouave units eventually gave up their pantaloons, leggings, vests, and turbans for the standard Union blue uniform, they were a favorite subject of painters and sculptors such as Winslow Homer and John Rogers. One of Rogers’s most popular statuary groups, The Picket Guard , depicts an officer and two Zouaves dressed much like the figure on the lamp.