Kate Walker here, keeping the light on Robbins Reef at the edge of New York Harbor.
When my man John was assistant keeper at Sandy Hook Light in New Jersey, he was proud of the fact that it was the oldest continually operated light station in the United States, built in 1764.
John told me that two lotteries were used to raise funds to acquire land on Sandy Hook and pay for construction of the lighthouse. An Act of the Colony of New York, passed on May 19, 1761, established the first lottery. Ten thousand tickets were sold at a price of £2 each. £3,000 of the lottery sales were retained for the purchase of four acres of land on Sandy Hook. A second lottery, held on June 14, 1763, raised an additional £3,000 to build the lighthouse. John had to explain to me why the lottery raised money that had a pound sign in front of it instead of a dollar sign.
In 1789 the new Congress of the United States decided that the Federal government should control the nation’s lighthouses in order to support shipping. Twelve colonial lighthouses then in operation (including Sandy Hook) were transferred and the new government set about constructing Cape Henry Lighthouse at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, financed by a Congressional appropriation.
President George Washington had to assign the care of lighthouses to one of his cabinet members. He had only four: Secretary of State, Secretary of War, Secretary of the Treasury, and Attorney General. Washington assigned lighthouses to Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury.
Do you know someone who buys lottery tickets? What happens to the money raised?
Information from National Archives Record Group 26 Entry 17J; http://www.lighthousefriends.com; and http://www.presidential-power.org/presidential-cabinets
Submitted July 20, 2017
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Cape Henry Light, built of stone in 1792, was replaced in 1881 by a cast-iron tower.