U.S. Lighthouse Society News

Greetings! Want to keep up with the latest on lighthouses? Check out U.S. Lighthouse Society News, a new electronic newsletter for the lighthouse community. As many of you know, I’m now working as the U.S. Lighthouse Society’s historian so I won’t be posting to my original Lighthouse History blog as often. I hope you consider subscribing to this new blog focusing on lighthouse history, preservation, education, and research. Just click on the SUBSCRIBE button in the right-hand column and provide your email address. Have items of interest to the lighthouse community? Please submit them for consideration to candace@uslhs.org. Thanks for your participation! Candace

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Instructions to Light Keepers

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 …

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U.S. Lighthouse Society Digitizes Lighthouse Plans

Some of you may be familiar with the finding aid of lighthouse plans in the Cartographic Branch of the National Archives, in College Park, Maryland. More than 20 years ago, the National Archives photographed the main collection of lighthouse plans in Record Group 26 and provided them as letter-sized prints arranged in 3-ring binders. This year, these prints have been scanned by the U.S. Lighthouse Society for their growing digital archives. “Plan of Tiling” for Morris Island. Many first-order lighthouses constructed in the 1870s had this type of diamond tiling on the floor of the tower’s ground level. Below we …

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Modern Day Lighthouse Keeper Thomas A. Tag

I have the pleasure of working with Tom Tag in my new part-time position as the U.S. Lighthouse Society’s new historian. As most of you know, Tom is the “goto guy” for everything technical in the lighthouse community. He’s written numerous articles for The Keeper’s Log on lenses, lamps, fog signals, illuminants, etc. He’s inventoried surviving lenses and lamps in the U.S. He and his wife Phyllis have created a database of all the lighthouse keepers serving in the Great Lakes. The amount of work he has performed on behalf of lighthouses and lighthouse history over the past 20-plus years is …

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National Archives Starts Digitizing Lighthouse Photos

Happy Spring! As many of you know the primary resource for lighthouse photos at the National Archives is RG 26 LG “Lighthouses, 1855 to 1933.” These images are fragile and cannot be scanned by researchers so the National Archives has begun a digitizing project to provide them online. I’m happy to report that some have made it into their online catalog! The images are organized geographically so the first box starts with Maine in the 1st Lighthouse District and the boxes end with Alaska and Hawaii.  There are over a 100 boxes of images so at the rate they’re going it may …

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Finding Aid for Lighthouse Logs

I have made the National Archives RG 26 finding aid “List of Logbooks of U.S. Coast Guard Cutters, Stations, and Miscellaneous Units, 1833 – 1980” available at http://lighthousehistory.info/research/uslhs/rg-26-finding-aid-for-logbooks/. Note that lighthouse keepers were not required to keep a daily log until 1872. Many logs are missing.

Logs for the WWII era when the U.S. Coast Guard was part of the U.S. Navy are listed in a different finding aid.

Lifesaving station logs from the USLSS period are kept at regional Archive facilities.

RG 26 Logs Whitlocks Mill to Woobine
Sample page of finding aid
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Modern Day Lighthouse Keeper Kraig Anderson

Most of you should be familiar with the LighthouseFriends website but may not be aware of the man behind the site — Kraig Anderson. When asked what has drawn him to Lighthouses, Kraig responds: The answer is a complex mixture of reasons that is perhaps better understood through firsthand experience than through words. Part of the appeal lighthouses have is that they are found in some of the most beautiful settings, often on rugged coastlines dotted with conifers or on sandy beaches lined with palms. Lighthouses can also be found in the remote extremes of the country where a sunset …

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U.S. Coast Guard Celebrates 225th Birthday

According to Acting U.S. Coast Guard Historian Scott Price, the U.S. Coast Guard considers August 4th, the date the U.S. Revenue Marine Service was created in 1790, as their official birthday not the January 28 date when their name was changed in 1915 (see Scott’s January 28 blog). The U.S. Coast Guard acquired its new name when the federal government combined the U.S. Life-Saving Service with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. Originally called the U.S. Revenue Marine Service, this early “U.S. navy” was “tasked with coastal surveys and exploration, saving life and property at sea, defending United States territorial waters, enforcing …

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Lighthouse Keeper Records Prison Riot at Alcatraz

Harry Davis became keeper of Alcatraz Lighthouse, marking the entrance to San Francisco Bay, in 1938. I was recently copying his logs in the National Archives as part of a research project for the U.S. Lighthouse Society. Davis’s log followed the two-page-for-every-month format, devoting one or two lines to each day’s weather and activities. He and his three assistants spent most of their time maintaining the property and the two fog signals. Then the format changed for May 1946 with a narrative written across two pages: May 2: 1430 hrs. Convicts on the loose with submachine gun, entire prison held at bay. Shooting …

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Alexander Hamilton and Lighthouses

While working in my digital research library, I recently revisited several letters written by the Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton. As you know, the Secretary of Treasury oversaw lighthouses in the early years of the new republic, with frequent oversight from President Washington. These letters were written to Benjamin Lincoln, the first customs collector in Boston, who, as the letters indicate, became the first superintendent of lighthouses for the state of Massachusetts. Copied from Record Group 26 during a 2001 visit to the Boston Regional Branch of the National Archives, the first letter is dated March 10, 1790, and the second July 14, …

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