These lanterns may seem like old technology, but compared with candles and fat-burning lamps, they're a relatively recent innovation. The fuel, based upon petroleum, was not developed until after 1850.
After the technology to refine kerosene was patented, the fuel was marketed as abundant, cheap and not prone to exploding like the oil used in standard lamps.
Kerosene largely won the battle of warring safety claims, in a marketing environment where companies often exaggerated the hazards of their competitors' products.
The lanterns were practical and pervasive, even in urban homes with piped-in gas. Though gaslights came into use in the late 1800s, you couldn't carry them around. Ultimately, it took the Rural Electrification Administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to turn the kerosene lamp into a collector's item.