Early Lighthouse Administration

Early keeper appointments and decisions relating to lighthouses were approved by the President. The 1793 letter above gives presidential approval for adjustments in keeper salaries. This letter is actually signed by President Washington’s secretary Tobias Lear. (Documents signed by a president are generally held in the vault at the National Archives.)  Note President Thomas Jefferson’s approval of the appointment of Elzy Burroughs as keeper of New Point Comfort Lighthouse, Virginia, in 1804, on the letter below.  As the lighthouse establishment grew, the president turned the administration of lighthouses over to the Commissioner of Revenue and he in turn transferred these …

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Keepers of the Light

Willard Thompson recently sent me his new book Keepers of the Light: The History of Point Conception. Willard does a good job describing the keepers’ experience at Point Conception Light Station, an isolated post on the California coast.  I provided him with a list of keepers which he uses as an appendix. In the case of Point Conception, there was a principle keeper and three assistants so it’s a rather long list. (Coastal lights with fog signals needed a lot of personnel.) When putting together a keeper list in the National Archives, I generally start with the microfilm publication “Registers of …

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Cast Iron Tower at Portland Breakwater

I posted a plan and photo of the first tower on the Portland Breakwater a few days ago.  Here is a historic image of the current cast iron tower constructed on the breakwater in 1875.  Note that the building attached to the tower no longer exists.  And the current tower is now painted white rather than a dark color. Below is a Historic American Building Survey (HABS) drawing of the current tower.  Note the classical columns.  You can download high-resolution HABS/HAER/HAL drawings and photos from the Built in America section of the Library of Congress website.

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Pemaquid Point at Sunset

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is a popular spot for photographers at sunset. During a recent visit, we all took turns capturing the lighthouse in the reflection.  My best shot was this cell phone image.  Makes me wonder why I bother with the regular camera! Here is a far older image of the same tower taken circa 1859 before the two fog signals were added.  The configuration of the tower and keeper’s dwelling is remarkably similar. The current tower dates to 1835.  It replaced an earlier tower built by Jeremiah Berry in 1827.

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20th Anniversary Edition of Women Who Kept the Lights

Announcing the Twentieth Anniversary Edition of Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers Twenty years ago, Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford published Women Who Kept the Lights. With over 38,000 copies in print, they are delighted to introduce a third edition. Since the second edition, published in 2001, Candace has continued to gather lighthouse records in the National Archives, uncovering new material about women keepers and clarifying old. Because we feel strongly that the stories of these remarkable women should be as accurate and complete as possible, supplementary material on a number of …

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