Historic Images · News · Research

Large National Archives Collection of Lighthouse Photographs Now Available Online

Morris Island Light Station, South Carolina. National Archives 26-LG-70-73

A huge thank you goes out to the National Archives for making their main collection of lighthouse photos available online! Over 1100 folders of lighthouse images taken between 1855 and 1933 can now be viewed and downloaded from the National Archives digital catalog. A project started several years ago appears to be complete.

Split Rock Lighthouse, Minnesota. National Archives 26-LG-89-54

According to the catalog’s description:

Photographs show views of the structures, surrounding areas, shorelines, and depict the living conditions of keepers, their families and of maintenance personnel. There are views showing construction of the buildings and installation of lights; . . .  light structures at forts, . . . memorial lights, lightships; and portraits of keepers (box 69). Most of the photographs are black and white and cyanotypes scattered throughout. They vary in size and most are mounted on cards. . . .  Photographs of miscellaneous and foreign lighthouses are in boxes 69 through 71A.

Those who have worked with 26-LG at the Still Pictures Branch at Archives II, College Park, Maryland, may remember that the condition of the photos prevented scanning of the prints or taking them out of their protective mylar, so having them available online is a real boon to lighthouse researchers. It also protects the originals from continued handling and exposure to harmful light.

Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, Florida, with lighthouse tender in distance. National Archives 26-LG-69-55

The images are organized geographically so the first box starts with Maine in the 1st Lighthouse District and goes through each district, ending with Alaska and Hawaii in the 19th Lighthouse District. After that there are a number of boxes of miscellaneous photos that include unidentified lighthouses, some of which, our Facebook fans have been helping to identify. Finally a number of foreign lighthouses are filed at the end of the collection.

1890s construction of the San Bernardino Island Lighthouse in the Philippines. The 26-LG collection includes a number of Philippine lighthouses. National Archives 26-LG-71A-189
An unidentified light station that most likely does not survive. National Archives 26-LG-70-43

Submitted by Candace Clifford, February 22, 2017

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. Please consider joining the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member. If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to candace@uslhs.org.