Historical reconstruction of atmospheric black carbon (BC, in the form of char and soot) is still constrained for inland areas. Here we determined and compared the past 150-yr records of BC and polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs) in sediments from two representative lakes, Huguangyan (HGY) and Chaohu (CH), in eastern China. HGY only receives atmospheric deposition while CH is influenced by riverine input. BC, char, and soot have similar vertical concentration profiles as PACs in both lakes. Abrupt increases in concentrations and mass accumulation rates (MARs) of soot have mainly occurred since ~1950, the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, when energy usage changed to more fossil fuel contributions reflected by the variations in the concentration ratios of char/soot and individual PACs. In HGY, soot MARs increased by ~7.7 times in the period 1980–2012 relative to the period 1850–1950. Similar increases (~6.7 times) were observed in CH. The increase in soot MARs is also in line with the emission inventory records in the literature and the fact that the submicrometer-sized soot particles can be dispersed regionally. The study provides an alternative method to reconstruct the atmospheric soot history in populated inland areas.