Circulars for lighthouse keepers were issued initially through local customs collectors who served as superintendents of lights in their districts. Most instructions concerned tracking the amount of oil used in lighting their lamps. The oil was a very valuable commodity. In 1835 Stephen Pleasonton, who oversaw lighthouses within the Treasury Department from 1820 to 1852, issued the following instructions. His clerk copied them into a volume recording outgoing correspondence now part of the National Archives collection under Record Group 26 Entry 18.
After the U.S. Light-House Board took over the administration of the lighthouses in 1852, the lighthouse service became much more organized and professional, resulting in detailed, multi-paged instructions. The Instructions were updated and expanded almost every decade.
The U.S. Lighthouse Society has digitized many of the Instructions to Light Keepers publications and is making them available on their website as downloadable books. You will notice other useful publications on the same page.
Note that the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association reprinted the 1905 Instructions. It is for sale on their website.
Submitted by Candace Clifford, November 15, 2016