News · Research · Research Catalog

Society Receives Maritime Heritage Education Grant

The Society is delighted to announce that the National Park Service (NPS) and the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) has awarded a maritime heritage grant of $48,600 to support the Society’s Archives Catalog Project.

A large part of the U.S. Lighthouse Society’s mission is to support lighthouse preservation, history, education, and research. Toward this goal, the Society has created “The Tom and Phyllis Tag Lighthouse Historical Archives.” This grant will make this archival material publicly accessible, in a searchable online catalog, to all who study and preserve lighthouse heritage.

Screen Shot of front page of a work-in-progress. The Catalog is still under development.

For the past several years the Society has been digitizing photos, plans, publications, and other textual records relating to light stations, minor aids to navigation, lighthouse keepers and other personnel, lightships, lighthouse tenders, lighthouse depots, and lighthouse technology such as lens, lamps, and fog signals for inclusion in this online catalog. We began the design phase of the online catalog in the summer of 2017 and have since created the core records for the PLACES, OBJECTS, and VESSELS categories. We recently started the upload of documents related to these resources.

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 2.46.42 PM
One of the first collections uploaded to the Archives Catalog is the National Archives Clipping Files. Over 900 documents have been uploaded so far.

Lighthouse experts Kraig Anderson and Thomas Tag have generously donated their time and talents toward the compilation of the initial databases. We cannot thank them enough!

The Society is also grateful for recent donations of research material that will ultimately become part of the Catalog. The Society is pleased to provide a means for making these collections all available in one place.

If you wish to support the required match for this grant, please visit our web’s donate page and specify that the donation is in support of the “Archives Catalog.” Questions can be directed to Candace Clifford.

Swans Island, ME 1907-1914 HEC (01)
Postcard of Burnt Coat Harbor Lighthouse courtesy of the Herb Entwistle Collection in the Society Archives. These postcards will be available in the Archives Catalog

Other lighthouse projects supported in this year’s maritime heritage funding include Burnt Coat Harbor Lighthouse, Maine; Baker Island, Massachusetts; and New York’s Seaway Lighthouses (Saint Lawrence Valley Educational Television Council). Goto the NPS website for a full list of funded projects.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, May 11, 2018

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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. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by 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.

Keepers · Research

Researching Female Lighthouse Keepers

As every historian knows, research is an ongoing process; you are never completely finished. The story is often told and new information comes to light. So it is with my research on female lighthouse keepers. Our book, Women Who Kept the Lights, first published in 1993, keeps expanding as new information is found on these remarkable women who kept lighthouses primarily during the nineteenth century. We produced a third edition in 2013 that includes two new chapters.

So I was surprised and delighted when I noticed a postcard that Linda Keenan had scanned in the Herb Entwistle collection for inclusion in the Society Archives and digital Catalog. (Founding member of the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, Herb amassed an amazing collection of lighthouse postcards that his family has donated to the Society’s Archives.) Linda recognized the significance of this particular postcard of Point Pinos and scanned both the back and front sides shown here.

Point Pinos Lighthouse, California, from the Herb Entwistle collection, Society Archives.
Point Pinos Lighthouse Keeper Emily Fish wrote “I have my efficiency star with commendation for the efficient and conscientious manner in which I have discharged my duties–am so pleased” to Angel Island Lighthouse Keeper Juliet Nichols. 1913 postcard from the Herb Entwistle Collection, Society Archives

The efficiency star intended “to promote efficiency and friendly rivalry among lighthouse keepers, a system of efficiency stars and pennants . . . Keepers who have been commended for efficiency at each quarterly inspection during the year are entitled to wear the inspector’s star for the next year, and those who receive the inspector’s star for three successive years will be entitled to wear the Commissioner’s star…”(Reproduction stars are available in the Keeper’s Locker),

We know that Keeper Emily Fish had a servant and employed laborers for the “heavy work” which included maintaining her large gardens and livestock. And that her son-in-law, district lighthouse inspector Lt. Cdr. Henry E. Nichols, arranged Emily’s appointment in 1893.  But Fish was a very conscientious keeper, keeping an excellent light and dealing with the after-effects of the 1906 earthquake that destroyed much of nearby San Francisco.

Emily’s step-daughter, Juliet Nichols, was the wife of the same inspector who procured Emily’s appointment. Juliet was offered the appointment as keeper of Angel Island’s light and fog signal after her husband’s death. Nichol’s correspondence with the district inspector reflected continued struggles with the fog signal, having to ring it by hand when the striking mechanism failed. Nichols, appointed in 1902, also served during the 1906 earthquake and watched San Francisco burn from her post.

Both Fish and Nichols retired as keepers in 1914, the year after this card was written.

Another female keeper, Julia Williams (pictured here), kept the Santa Barbara Light, California, from 1865 to 1905. Postcard from Herb Enwistle Collection, Society Archives

Submitted by Candace Clifford, Society Historian. Her book, Women Who Kept the Lights, co-authored with Mary Louise Clifford, is available in the Keeper’s Locker.

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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. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by 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.

News · Research · Research Catalog

Tybee Island Research Donated to Society Archives

Tybee GA 2009 (2) by JCC copy
Tybee Island Lighthouse in 2009. Photo by Candace Clifford

Sarah Jones at the Tybee Island Historical Society recently contacted me for copies of National Archives documents I collected for them almost ten years ago. Jones agreed that the collection should be part of the Society’s Archives to make it accessible for future researchers. In reviewing the documents, I was reminded of Tybee’s rich history. It is one of the earliest U.S. light stations so there are wonderful examples of correspondence from the early period of the Federal government.

The first aids to navigation at Tybee Island were a series of unmanned beacons starting in 1736. The new Federal government passed legislation on August 7, 1789, to take over the responsibility of the existing colonial lights. Subsequently, on November 14, 1789, John Habersham, the local customs collector for the District of Savannah, wrote to Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton:

In answer to your letter of the 1st ultimo, I have to inform you that the only public convenience we have in this Port and Harbour, is a Light House on the Island of Tybee; it is built of brick, and with some repairs will be a very good Building of the kind; its being lighted (which it never has yet been) will be of great benefit to the Trade of this Port, as the Bar is in every respect so easy as to admit of Vessels coming in at night, provided they have a light to direct them. The Building is at present under the direction of the Commissioners of the Pilotage for this Port; but no Person has been hitherto appointed to remain on the spot. . . .1

In 1790 John Habersham contracted with Adrianus Vandennes and Peter Carr, house carpenters, to undertake major repairs to the tower, including the creation of a lantern on the tower at Tybee for $1,791.2

In a letter dated May 20, 1791, Habersham assured Hamilton that “When the Legislature have their next meeting, I shall use my best endeavors to obtain a cession of the Light House to the United States. In the meantime I have to inform you that the additions and repairs to that building are completed, and that as no Person has been appointed to take charge of it, I applied to the President of the United States to authorize a temporary appointment . . .” Ichabod Higgins’ appointment was reportedly authorized by the President.3

An Act to “sign, seal and deliver a Deed of Cession of the Light house on Tybee Island and five acres of land belonging thereto to the United States” was signed by William Gibbons, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Nathan Brownson, President of the Senate, and concurred by Edward Telfair, Governor of Georgia, on December 15, 1791.4

Tybee Island GA 1791 Act of Cession
National Archives Record Group 26 Entry 17J

The Tybee light tower was first lit by spermaceti candles in 1791. A November 1792 fire burned all the wooden sections aside from the door at the lowest story, prompting the Lighthouse Establishment to replace the wooden lantern with an iron one in 1794.5

Tybee Island GA 1793 Stair repairs NA RG 26 E 17J
Plan for the new wooden stairs at Tybee Island Lighthouse submitted by the contractor Adrianus Vandennes in August 1793. National Archives RG 26 Entry 17J
Tybee Island GA 17930116 repairs NA RG 26 E 17J copy
The needed repairs were approved by the President according to this note from his secretary Tobias Lear. National Archives RG 26 Entry 17J

It is interesting to note that The Keeper’s Log (Fall 2011 issue) published the letters written back to John Habersham from Treasury Department officials including the Commissioner of the Revenue. These were transcribed from a microfilm copy of the letters acquired by the Society.

After 1810 a Winslow Lewis parabolic reflector system with Argand lamps was installed. In 1852, the newly created Light-House Board overhauled the existing light stations, replacing Lewis’ reflector system with the vastly more efficient Fresnel lens. The Tybee light tower received its second-order Fresnel lens in 1857.

In 1861 a Confederate raiding party set fire to the tower, destroying the upper 40 feet of the tower, the lantern, and the interior wooden staircase. After the Civil War, $54,443 was appropriated for the reconstruction of the light tower and keeper’s house.6

Tybee Island (03) Octagonal Tower of Brick NA RG 26 GA
Utilizing the surviving lower 60-foot brick portion, the tower was rebuilt to its present height of 154 feet from the ground to the top of the ventilator ball. The new tower retained the octagonal shape at the base but a noticeable difference in the taper of the tower can be seen 60 feet from ground level where the new tower extends out of the old base. Plan from National Archives.
Tybee Island 1867NTM copy
When relit in 1867, the lens was upgraded to a first-order. Notice to Mariners, September 25, 1867

The 1867 tower survives today as an active aid to navigation and centerpiece of a museum. The station was meticulously restored under the direction of the late Cullen Chambers for the public to enjoy and appreciate. Goto www.tybeelighthouse.org/ for more information.

Footnotes

1 National Archives, Record Group 26, Entry 17A (NC-31) “Letters Received by the Treasury Department, 1785 – 1812.”

2 Letter to Alexander Hamilton, dated November 2, 1790, National Archives, RG 26, Entry 17A.

3 National Archives, RG 26 Entry 17A

4 National Archives, RG 26, Entry 17J.

5 Letter dated November 9, and December 3, 1792, to Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, and letter dated June 7, 1794, National Archives, RG 26, Entry 17A.

6 U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Coast Guard, Historically Famous Lighthouses, CG-232 (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986), p. 21.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, March 20, 2018

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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 join 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.

Education · Job Announcements · News · Research

Opportunity to Work in the National Archives

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT: 2018 Summer Research Assistant / Intern

The U.S. Lighthouse Society is seeking a summer research assistant to copy historic documents relating to the U.S. Lighthouse Service and to make the documents accessible to the public through the Society’s new online catalog.

National Archives
Research side of National Archives building, downtown D.C. Photo by Candace Clifford

The position will require camera work at the National Archives, Washington, D.C., to make digital copies; processing the images on a computer using Photoshop and Acrobat Reader; and in many cases, uploading the files to an online database. The research assistant will also help the Society’s historian answer research requests from Society members.

Camera, computer, and research skills are needed for this position. An interest in and/or knowledge of lighthouse history is helpful but not required.

This is a full-time, 10-week position, paying $12 an hour. We anticipate that three hours will be spent copying records at the Archives each day and three hours doing computer work. An additional 2 hours will be devoted to a research project that generates an article for the Society’s quarterly journal, The Keeper’s Log; web pages; or posts for Lighthouse Society News blog.

This position will support several objectives of the United States Lighthouse Society, namely: maintaining a central repository of lighthouse information, conducting research on lighthouse history, and responding to requests for information and assistance. To learn more about the Society, visit their website at <uslhs.org>

The position will report to the Society’s Historian Candace Clifford. Please send letters of interest with a resume to Ms. Clifford at Candace@uslhs.org by April 16th.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, March 16, 2018

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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 join 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.

 

Lighthouse Construction · News · Research · Society Members

Lynn and Dave Waller Research Collection for The Graves Lighthouse

Society members Lynn and Dave Waller recently donated their National Archives research findings for the Graves Light Station, Massachusetts, to the Society Archives. Society Director Jeff Gales is delighted with the gift. “Making lighthouse research widely available is the intent of the new Catalog and such an endeavor would not be possible without generous donations such as this.”

This collection consists primarily of U.S. Light-House Board and U.S. Bureau of Lighthouse correspondence and photos available in the National Archives, Washington, D.C. After acquiring the light station in 2013, Dave Waller hired Candace Clifford (now the Society’s historian) to find and copy any National Archives documents relating to the station as part of their overall restoration effort.

One item in the collection is an album of photos pertaining to the station’s 1903-1904 construction. Since the Catalog is not yet available online, you can access the album at The Graves MA 1903-1905 Construction Album NA RG 26 LG 7-49 LDW (lores).)

Graves MA 40th course NA RG 26 LG 7-49
The 40th course of the Graves Lighthouse was laid in 1904. (Note the numbers marked on each stone.) Image part of National Archives photo album 26-LG-7-49 from the Lynn and Dave Waller collection
Stonework completed to 40th course. National Archives image courtesy Lynn and Dave Waller collection

On January 10, Dave reported that he “just got back from the light after dropping off the first work crew of 2018. [The tower is] spectacular looking in the winter light. Today we are finishing up the central heating system and varnishing the gorgeous quarter swan oak wainscoting in the watch room. We started the oil house refurb[ishment] in the fall, but switched to interior work as winter set in.”

Graves MA 2018 oil house LDW lores
Oil house under restoration.  2018 photo courtesy Dave Waller

For more information on the restoration visit The Graves Light Station website.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, January 12, 2018

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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 join 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.

Historic Images · News · Research

Supporting Lighthouse History & Research

For this “Giving Tuesday” we are reprinting a recent column from The Keeper’s Log asking you to support lighthouse history and research.

As you know, a large part of the U.S. Lighthouse Society’s mission is to support lighthouse preservation, history, education, and research. Creating an accessible historical archive has long been part of the Society’s strategic plan.

Cleveland (08) Side Elevation, Section AA NA RG 26 OH copy
Side Elevation for Cleveland Lighthouse, Ohio. As part of their effort to expand the Society’s digital archives, the Society recently scanned the 43-volume finding aid of the main collection of lighthouse plans at the National Archives.

The Society has been collecting lighthouse-related material since its inception in 1984. Society President Wayne Wheeler created the original collection based, in part, on material used in articles for The Keeper’s Log and in planning Society tours. In 2000, Tom Tag, the Society’s technical expert, donated his large collection of lighthouse records. He has been digitizing the Society’s holdings since 2007. This vast digital collection contains photos, postcards, architectural plans, publications, and textual documents. At last count, there were over 184,000 photos and documents. The Society has named this collection “The Tom and Phyllis Tag Lighthouse Historical Archives.”

Some of this material is already available online thanks to the efforts of Society volunteer Gary Riemenschneider. In addition to providing photos and architectural drawings, Gary also created a site devoted to the published Light Lists where the researcher can see data pulled together (with some gaps) for an individual light station between 1839 and 2004.

576S_Anacapa_CA_Lens_1933_CG4
The Society’s online Catalog will include documents relating to PLACES, PEOPLE, OBJECTS, and VESSELS. Here is an example of an OBJECT — the Anacapa Lighthouse Lens before it was shipped to California. Photo from the USCG Historian’s Office.

Under Tom Tag’s direction, the Society supported the creation of an inventory of surviving lenses and lamps in the U.S. Tom created an extensive technology section about the complex technology developed for lighthouse optics and fog signals since the early 19th century. Society Historian Candace Clifford hopes to create similar sections for Keepers, Lighthouse Construction, and Lighthouse Administration.

Since coming on board in June 2016, Candace has supplemented the Society’s holdings with plans, photos, publications, and documents from National Archives Record Group 26, the primary depository of federal lighthouse records. With the help of her assistant, Linda Keenan, they have digitized U.S. Light-House Board (USLHB) clipping files relating to light stations (both existing and no longer existing), lightships, lighthouse depots, and lighthouse tenders. The clipping files are primarily extracts from the USLHB Annual Reports. Copies of lighthouse plans from the main collection of RG 26 have also been scanned.

Eagle Bluff, WI Clippings NA RG 26 E 13 1
The Society has scanned the National Archives “Clipping Files” that include excerpts from the Annual Reports of the USLHB. This example features Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Wisconsin.

In the summer of 2017, with the assistance of web developer Tom Wheeler, the Society began the design of an online catalog to share the Society’s Archives. The Library of Congress catalog of digital collections was chosen as a prototype in that it organizes its material by collections that are all part of a searchable database with various filters.

We have organized our Catalog according to PLACES, PEOPLE, OBJECTS, and VESSELS and the relational database interconnects these four categories. In other words, a light station (place) relates to its keepers (people) or lens (objects). A lightship (vessel) relates to its crew (people) and its station (place).

Our initial focus has been on existing light stations that comprise the bulk of the material for the PLACES category. We loaded the National Park Service “Inventory of Historic Light Stations” so we would have a record for each surviving light station. Now we are creating a system of relationships between the PLACES, PEOPLE, OBJECTS, and VESSELS as well as creating the initial framework for those records. We are creating data for light-houses that no longer exist. Eventually we will include in the PLACES section, material on depots, lightship stations, museums and other stewards, as well as minor aids to navigation. Next we will focus on lighthouse keepers and other Lighthouse Service personnel, inventors, engineers, builders, architects, etc., for the catalog’s PEOPLE section; then OBJECTS—lenses, lamps, fog signals, and other technology used by the Lighthouse Service. Finally a VESSELS section will primarily feature lightships and lighthouse tenders.

Thomas Point MD keeper letter NA RG 26 E3
This letter would be associated with both a PLACE, Thomas Point Shoal Light Station, and a PERSON, D.A. White, its keeper. National Archives RG 26, Entry 3 (NC-63) Field Records of 5th Lighthouse District.

Kraig Anderson, creator of LighthouseFriends.com, will be helping us gather data on lighthouse keepers and other service personnel. You may have noticed on his site the keeper lists Kraig put together at the bottom of each station’s page. Tom Tag is developing the data for the OBJECTS section.

We hope to sponsor an intern to help Candace in the National Archives. Candace will also be processing any donations such as the large historic postcard collection recently donated to the Society by the family of Herb Entwistle. The Society is not able to house many large collections, but we appreciate donations of digital photos or documents.

Bear Island, ME 1912 HEC (01)
Bass Harbor Head, ME. Postcard from the Herb Entwistle postcard collection.

We hope to have the PLACES section of the Catalog “live” in the summer of 2018. We will gather and upload more documents as funding permits. Candace has applied for a maritime heritage grant for which the Society has to provide a match. A special Archives Fund has been set up to support these activities. If you would support this undertaking, please make a tax-deductible donation to our Archives fund. Any amount will help us in this huge endeavor.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, November 28, 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 join 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.