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This article examines the technical and symbolic perceptions of the street lantern before and during the French Revolution. More broadly, it seeks to understand how new technical objects impact an urban habitat—in particular, the processes of judgment, agreement, familiarization, and social integration involved in the social acceptance of innovations. Tracing these multi-layered processes uncovers a shift in meaning and appropriation of the street lantern in the eighteenth century. This shift helped inventors promote their products, but also subverted their innovation for sinister purposes. The complex history of how the lantern's representations evolved obscures the distinctions between the visual culture of technical inventions represented by trade cards and popular imagery represented by caricatures. The article thus addresses the question of the embeddedness of technologies in cultural discourses, the entwining of narratives with material objects.