Historic Images · News · Research

Large National Archives Collection of Lighthouse Photographs Now Available Online

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

News · Research

Gull Rocks Light Station, Rhode Island

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“Gull Rocks Light Station Newport”, VM013_GF4707, Rhode Island Photograph Collection, Providence Public Library, Providence, RI

I came across these images of Gull Rocks Light Station in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, in the wonderful Rhode Island Collection at the Providence Public Library’s digital library. Both images were captured by William King Covell before and after the change in optic. The above image is dated 1921 and the one below is 1932. I’m not sure I’d ever seen this lighthouse design before!

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“Gull Rocks Light Station Newport”, VM013_GF4708, Rhode Island Photograph Collection , Providence Public Library, Providence, RI

According to Jeremy D’Entremont’s “History of Gull Rocks Light Station, Newport, Rhode Island,” the station was built near Newport in the 1880s. “The lighthouse was a wood A-frame dwelling with two lanterns that traveled on rails through windows at the east and west peaks of the structure. One light was fixed white, the other fixed red. A fog bell and striking apparatus were installed in 1888. . . . In 1928, a single acetylene light on a skeleton tower next to the dwelling replaced the two earlier lights. At this time the keeper at Gull Rocks was also put in charge of Newport Harbor Light at Goat Island.”

The station was automated in 1960 and the dwelling destroyed in 1961. The light on the skeleton tower was discontinued in 1969, soon after the construction of the Newport Bridge. Today, all that remains is the oil house.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, U.S. Lighthouse Society Historian, February 11, 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.

News · Research · Volunteer Opportunities

Want to Help Transcribe Yaquina Head Lighthouse Documents?

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Example of letter to be transcribed. National Archives, RG 26, Letterbook 311 (click on image to enlarge)

The Friends of Yaquina Lights (FOYL), Newport, Oregon, have discovered a great way to transcribe their historical documents from the National Archives. They are using volunteers to transcribe their collection of historic documents (keeper’s logs, correspondence, etc.) using an online site at fromthepage.com/YaquinaLights. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can volunteer! Accounts at fromthepage.com are free and easy to set up. Successful transcription of this large collection of fascinating (along with the more mundane) will make these historical documents available to the general public.

Submitted by Amy Cauthon, Friends of Yaquina Lights, foyl@yaquinalights.org, February 6, 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.

Keepers · News · Research · Society Members

Presidential Appointments of Lighthouse Keepers

The earliest lighthouse keeper appointments in the new nation were approved by President Washington. The practice continued with Thomas Jefferson but as the number of lighthouses grew, keeper appointments became the responsibility of the Secretary of the Treasury.(The Treasury Department administered lighthouses from 1790 to 1901). There are some exceptions however. Apparently John and Rebecca Flaherty had some sort of connection to President John Quincy Adams and his wife Louisa, and did not hesitate to use it.

According to Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers, Rebecca Flaherty wrote Mrs. Adams asking for her influence in seeking a keeper appointment at Thomas Point, Maryland, for her husband John, a War of 1812 veteran. Eventually in the spring of 1826 John received an appointment as keeper of Dry Tortugas Lighthouse in Florida. The Flahertys did not fare well at that isolated station and soon requested a switch with the keeper at Sand Key, a station nine miles from Key West. The request was granted by President Adams in the letter below.

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Letter dated January 18, 1827, from Stephen Pleasonton to President John Quincy Adams requesting his approval of the keeper appointments at Dry Tortugas and Sand Key Lighthouses, Florida. National Archives, Record Group 26, Entry 17I “Correspondence Relating to the Appointment of Lighthouse Keepers, 1801 -1852.”

As you can see, President Adams noted his approval directly on the letter, not an uncommon practice, although the presidents generally just “initialed” their approval.

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President Adam’s approval extracted from letter above.

I did not see this letter when researching Women Who Kept the Lights, but it came to light when gathering some material for U.S. Lighthouse Society member Neil Hurley, who researches Florida light keepers and is currently writing a book on the vessels and towers that have lit Carysfort Reef in the Florida Keys.

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2016 photo of Carysfort Reef Lighthouse showing both the old tower and its new replacement tower in the distance. Courtesy Neil Hurley.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, January 8, 2o17

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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.

 

 

Keepers · News · Research

Lighthouse Keepers React to Attack on Pearl Harbor

Seventy-five years ago today Americans were stunned at the news of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Most lighthouse keepers shared the news in their logbooks and noted the immediate effects of this event at their station.

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At Makapuu Point Lighthouse, located not far from Honolulu on the island of Oahu, the lighthouse log entry for December 8, 1941, begins “War against Japan was declared by President Roosevelt after Japan attacked without warning Naval & Army bases on Oahu. Watches have been rearranged effective today on a basis of 4 hours on and 8 hours off without liberty. . . .” 

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On December 9, 1941, at Alcatraz Light Station in San Francisco Bay, the keeper notes “The first official Air Raid Warning for S.F. [San Francisco] and the U.S.A.”
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On the December 8, 1941, the Keeper at Cape Arago Light Station on the Oregon coast does not note the attack but does report that he “put the radiobeacon out of commission at 2146 and total black [out] at 2300 per orders received.” 
Soon after December 7, 1941, the U.S. Coast Guard would become part of the U.S. Navy. The lighthouse personnel became part of the War effort as the military set up defense and communications at many of the stations. At key stations the number of station personnel would increase substantially to cover additional duties such as beach patrol, plane lookouts, radar, radio communications, etc. Some coastal lighthouses were extinguished or dimmed and many lightships were taken off their stations to avoid sinking by enemy submarines. All coastal keepers were drilled in blackout measures should the need arise.

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Note the WWII lookout tower placed above the lantern at Plum Island Lighthouse, on Long Island Sound, New York. National Archives photo from RG 26 Entry 281.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, Historian, U.S. Lighthouse Society, December 7, 2016

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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.

Exhibits · News · Shipwrecks

Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association Update

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Beavertail Light Station, RI. Photo by Candace Clifford, 2011

According to their Fall 2016 newsletter, the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association (BLMA) has started a major fundraising campaign to create an endowment to continue the work they have already accomplished in preserving the light station. So far they have restored the foundation of the original lighthouse built in 1749, restored the 1938 fog signal building, restored the existing 1856 light tower, and tripled the size of their museum.

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Beavertail Light Station welcomed a U.S. Lighthouse Society tour in June 2016. This photo dates to 2011

Interpretation of site now includes QR code signs on 21 different subjects installed in various locations throughout Beavertail Park and the light station grounds. According to BLMA’s website, “Each 4 x 6 inch sign scanned by a smart phone or tablet connects to http://www.beavertaillight.org and immediately provides historical or descriptive site information on the subject identified on the sign.”

BLMA had also created an impressive online shipwreck database. The interactive site provides data and stories in connection with 3,018 Rhode Island shipwrecks. You can filter the wrecks according to weather events such as the Portland Gale of 1898 or view their locations on NOAA maps.

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The 1856 granite tower replaced a wooden tower built in 1753.

Beavertail continues as an active aid to navigation. The newsletter mentions that a new drum beacon was being installed by the U.S. Coast Guard. The old light recently failed and the backup light has been in service ever since. Once the old drum light is replaced, the BLMA has requested that it join the old Fresnel lens in the museum to help tell the continuing history of the light station.

When providing the newsletter, Board Member Varoujan Karentz wrote, “As America’s 3rd oldest light, we here at Beavertail take great pride and delight in providing information to our visitors and lighthouse friends. Our organization is 100% volunteer base operating our free admission museum during the summer months. This year 30,000 plus visitors passed through our doors with complimentary accolades for our new exhibits and interactive displays.”

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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.

News · Research

U.S. Lighthouse Society Digitizes Lighthouse Plans

Lighthouse History

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.

morris-island-map-government-land-lh-south-morris-island-na-rg-26-sc In addition to providing important historical information, many of the plans are beautiful drawings. This map of Morris Island, S.C., shows the size of the island that the station once occupied. Today only the tower survives and is surrounded by water.

morris-island-detail If you look carefully, you can see the main light station near the top of this map detail. Also note the two beacons and separate keeper’s dwelling for the range lights. The 1883 Light List indicates that the…

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