News · photography · Society Members

2018 Calendar Submission Mosaic

The U.S. Lighthouse Society asked its members to help them put together a 2018 calendar. Seventy-seven responded with an impressive array of images. See <> for  all the submissions organized by their submission category or theme. If you want to submit feedback on some of the finalists, you can “Like” your favorites on the Society’s Facebook page. We plan to have the calendar available for purchase in the Keeper’s Locker in time for holiday shopping.


News · photography · Society Members

Submissions for 2018 Society Calendar

Some recent submissions by Society photographers for possible inclusion in our 2018 Society calendar:


For more information on our calendar contest, goto our submissions page.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, Society Historian, August 17, 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



News · photography · Society Members

Calendar to Highlight Society Member Photographs

Cedar Island NY 2015 by Michael Leahy
Michael Leahy captured this entry taken at Cedar Island Lighthouse, New York, in 2015. He entered it in the “Unusual Perspective” category.

Entries have started to come in for the 2018 Lighthouse Society Calendar. We have received entries for 9 of the 12 categories. Nothing for the “Reflection” category or the Kid’s categories. If you have a young photographer in your family, consider upgrading to the Society’s family membership for an additional $10. We want to get young people interested in lighthouses!

Boston Harbor At The Beauty Shop lores 2014 by Bruce Wilbur
Bruce Wilbur’s “At the Beauty Shop” shows Boston Harbor’s 2014 restoration. This was entered under the “Preservation Project / Special Event” category.

Here are the 12 categories (one for each month):

o   Black and white (this can be a computer generated conversion from color)

o   Detail

o   Interior

o   Kid’s perspective (photographers 9 and younger)

o   Older kid’s perspective (10 – 15 years old)

o   Landscape

o   Preservation project or special event

o   Reflection

o   Sunrise / sunset

o   Technology (lens, fog signal, etc.)

o   Unusual angle or perspective

o   Weather (snow, storms, lightning, etc.)

Concord Point MD 2016 double rainbow by Bethany Baker
Bethany Baker’s double rainbow at Concord Point Lighthouse, MD, is for the “Weather” category.
Absecon NJ by ANi Berberian
For the “Interior” category, here is Ani Berberian’s staircase at Absecon Lighthouse, NJ.

Submission guidelines:

  • Participating photographers must be current members of the U.S. Lighthouse Society. Goto <> to join.
  • Digital submissions only. Submit image files to <>. Please create low resolution jpg files around 8 by 6 inches at 72 dpi. (If chosen for the calendar, we will need an 8 by 10 inch image at a minimum of 300 dpi. Unfortunately, smaller images cannot be used for the final printed product.) 
  • Include photographer name, lighthouse name, state, year taken, and submission category in the file name of your photo.  
  • Members may submit one photo per category. Kids may submit up to three photos in their categories. Submit only photos that you have taken.
  • Photos should be unrestricted. Unless you instruct the Society otherwise, by submitting images to this project, you are giving your permission for the Society to use your image in social media and in printed publications. You also are agreeing that your image will become part of the Society’s digital archive.
  • Submission deadline is September 15, 2017.
Grace Ballentine’s “Black and White” entry was taken at Gasparilla Lighthouse, Florida, in 2012.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, July 25, 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


Queries · Research · Small Craft · Society Members

Researching Small Craft

Small Craft for Lighthouse and Buoy-Tending Work;
A Lesser-Known Part of U.S. Lighthouse Service History
by Timothy Dring; CDR, USNR-Retired

shad fishing boat
Oar/sail powered Albemarle Sound shad fishing boat type typically assigned to the screwpile lighthouses of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. (Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office)

While there has been a lot of very fruitful historical research on the history of the lighthouses and personnel that have served the United States, much less is known about one aspect of U.S. Lighthouse Service history; that of their use of small craft for service at lighthouses and for buoy tending in protected waters. I hope to rectify this shortcoming in the research I am now engaged in, having already done this for the small craft used by the former U.S. Life-Saving Service and early Coast Guard. To achieve success in this effort, however, I need whatever assistance is available from the members of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, as the official record of these small craft is very sparse among the documents held by either the National Archives or the U.S. Coast Guard. My objective is to create as complete a descriptive record as possible of all the small craft used by the Lighthouse Service from the 1800s up to and through the period of its amalgamation into the Coast Guard.

In U.S. Lighthouse Service use, these small craft fell into three broad categories: 1) those assigned to individual lighthouses for use by the keeper; 2) those assigned to individual lighthouse tenders or lightships; and 3) those used by either depots or other support facilities for the purposes of tending the smaller buoys and fixed minor lights within a district. Within each of these categories, as you might expect, is the distinction between those boats that were only powered by oars and/or sails, and those that were powered by some type of marine engine.

Lighthouse Station Boats

swampscott rowing dory
Swampscott rowing dory of the type used at many New England region light stations. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Claflin)

With relatively few exceptions, most major lighthouses/light stations were assigned some type of small craft for use by the keeper, either for resupply trips, or occasionally for local rescue work. Initially, and continuing well into the early 1900s, these boats were of a size and design that allowed easy use by a single person as crew (i.e., the keeper), which meant that they were typically smaller 14- to 16-foot-long rowing skiffs or dories that may also have carried a small sailing rig. The type of small boat assigned to a lighthouse was usually based on the small boat types typically in use in the local area, such that a lighthouse keeper would already have some familiarity with its use. In addition, most boats assigned to lighthouses were sourced from the local commercial boatyards available in each district, rather than being supplied from a central source.

Many of the Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina area screwpile type lighthouses were assigned a larger, combination rowing/sailing boat of a design that was derived from the famous Albemarle Sound shad fishing boat.

motor launch
22ft. long motor launch of a type assigned to a Great Lakes area lighthouse. (Photograph courtesy of Steve and Grace Truman)

Once reliable lightweight marine type engines were available in the early 1900s, most of the light stations were re-equipped with a motorboat; again of a design that was developed and built locally within each lighthouse district, and one that was usually larger than the older rowing/sailing boats.

Other than a few inspection reports for each lighthouse that included a description of the assigned small boats, very little documentation of these boats exists today. It is hoped that Lighthouse Society members may be able to provide information on the type of boat(s) assigned to their favorite lighthouses, especially if a photograph of the boat is available for sharing.

Lighthouse Tender/Lightship Boats

Monomoy type
23ft. long Monomoy type pulling surfboat assigned to tender Sassafras

Unlike the smaller sized boats typically assigned to a light station, those assigned to a lighthouse tender or a lightship were larger and more seaworthy. They served two purposes: one being its use as a work boat when transferring personnel and supplies to and from a lighthouse or for servicing a buoy, and the other its possible use as a lifeboat for the tender’s crew. As with the boats assigned to light stations, lighthouse tender/lightship boats started out as solely powered by oars and/or sail, with conversion over to or replacement by motorized models starting in the early 1900’s. Some tenders were also assigned a small steam-powered launch that could be operated independently in sheltered areas for the servicing of buoys and minor lights.

24ft. long motor cargo boat of the type assigned to tenders

Buoy-Tending Boats

Until the 1920s, the Lighthouse Service did not utilize any small craft that were designed and built specifically for tending the smaller lighted and unlighted buoys that were typically used to mark harbors and inland waterways. Instead, the service preferred to use the smaller harbor lighthouse tenders. This changed by the 1920s, and for the first time the service placed into service small boats (typically less than 60ft. in length) that were designed and built to service small buoys, including an A-frame derrick and well deck for the purposes of lifting buoys on and off the boat for servicing. These were day boats, i.e., without a permanent crew and with no accommodations for overnight operation. These buoy boats were usually assigned to the nearest depot, but were also sometimes assigned to a tender or to a larger light station that also doubled as a local buoy depot. By the World War II years, these boats were expanded in size and capability to provide more seaworthiness and, in some cases, onboard accommodations for the assigned crew.

38ft. buoy boat assigned to the buoy depot at Navesink Twin Lights in New Jersey. (Photograph courtesy of the Twin Lights Historical Society)

During the Lighthouse Service era, nearly all of the service’s boats were built by private commercial boat builders under contract either to an individual lighthouse district, or to the general depot at Tompkinsville, Staten Island, New York. This changed following the absorption of the Lighthouse Service into the Coast Guard in 1939, after which most of the service’s small craft were built by the Coast Guard’s Curtis Bay Depot in Maryland.

Unfortunately, nearly all of the construction and assignment records for light station, tender, or buoy boats have been lost or destroyed. Trying to reconstruct this part of the history is, therefore, very challenging, and depends very much on what documentary or photographic information is available from sources other than either the National Archives or the Coast Guard. This article serves as an appeal to the reader to assist in this research by sharing whatever you may have related to this topic, such as light station inspection reports, logbook entries, or photographs that may describe or show the small boats that were used at these Lighthouse Service facilities. Your assistance in this endeavor will be greatly appreciated.

Contact Tim via his email <>.

Submitted by Tim Dring, President, U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association and U.S. Lighthouse Society member, May 4, 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

Awards · News · Society Members

Ralph Eshelman Receives Ross Holland Award

Mike Vogel presents Ross Holland award to Ralph Eshelman 2017 JCC lores
Ralph Eshelman receives Ross Holland award from Mike Vogel, chair of the American Lighthouse Council, during the recent U.S. Lighthouse Society Board meeting.

Established by the American Lighthouse Council to recognize truly exceptional contributions by an individual or group, the Holland Award is the major national honor bestowed by the lighthouse preservation community. It is named for Francis Ross Holland, Jr., who received the initial Distinguished Service Award that was to henceforth carry his name.

Ralph Eshelman receives Holland award 2017 JCC lores
Ralph Eshelman with Ross Holland award.

Dr. Eshelman was presented the Holland Award during a recent U.S. Lighthouse Society Board meeting. Mike Vogel, chair of the American Lighthouse Council, read the following citation:

Ralph Eshelman got involved in lighthouse preservation in 1975 when, a year after he was appointed the first director of the Calvert Marine Museum, he led the team that moved Maryland’s 1883 Drum Point Lighthouse ashore for an accurate and meticulous three-year restoration and interpretation effort. He has been deeply involved in the movement ever since, making exceptional contributions to a lighthouse community that has benefitted deeply from his expertise, advice and leadership.

A geologist, paleontologist, polar tour and expedition guide, lecturer and the author of five books on the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake Theater, Ralph has served as a trustee of the Maryland Historical Trust and in 1996 wrote that organization’s Lighthouse Preservation and Interpretation Plan. He also authored a context theme study and National Register nomination for 17 light stations in Maryland, and at the national level served as historian on several federal assessment teams that surveyed 31 historic lighthouses throughout the United States, co-authored the Maritime Heritage of the United States National Historic Landmark Theme Context Study for Lighthouses for the National Park Service, and prepared National Landmark nominations for three masonry lighthouses including Cape Hatteras.

Ralph was the historian for the team that wrote the Historic Lighthouse Preservation Handbook for the National Park Service and Coast Guard in 1997, and that year was one of three lighthouse leaders who formed the National Lighthouse Museum Steering Committee. He served as the committee’s president as it developed the national museum concept and also formed the American Lighthouse Coordinating Committee, later renamed the American Lighthouse Council. He remained active in both of those organizations, serving as a vice president of the developing lighthouse museum.

A past president of the Council of American Maritime Museums and founding vice president of the National Maritime Preservation Task Force of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Ralph is an owner of a cultural resource management consultancy firm, a consultant to the National Park Service and the founding principal of a lighthouse preservation firm. A veteran member of the United States Lighthouse Society’s board of directors, he has played a leading role in the development of the Society’s Strategic Plan and grants program, and most recently has led the Society’s assessment of the Alcatraz Lighthouse in California as a step toward preservation and interpretation of that light in cooperation with state and federal agencies. His expertise, invaluable advice and outstanding leadership is recognized by this presentation of the H. Ross Holland Award, the lighthouse preservation movement’s highest lifetime honor.

Ralph Eshelman award at 2017 USLHS Board Mtg JCC lores
U.S. Lighthouse Society Board members Henry Gonzalez, Bill Merlin, Tom Tag, Ralph Eshelman, Mike Vogel, Wayne Wheeler, and Elinor DeWire during the award presentation on March 18, 2017.

Submitted by Candace Clifford with citation provided by Mike Vogel, March 21, 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

News · Research · Society Members · Weather Bureau

Coastal Storm Warning Display at Whitehead Island, Maine

You may have read the recent sidebar on the storm warning signal towers at Cape Elizabeth in the “From the Archives” column in the last issue of the 2016 Keeper’s Log. Society Member David Gamage provided the following article on the storm warning signal tower at Whitehead Island, Maine. He also provided a copy of the Instructions for Storm Warning Displaymen for the Society’s Archives. 

The U.S. Weather Bureau provided a storm-warning display at Whitehead Island, Maine, following the installation of a telephone line from the mainland to the White Head Life-Saving Station in 1884. This phone enabled the communication necessary for timely display of the storm warnings.

Whitehead Island is located at the entrance to the Muscle Ridge Channel, a favored route in and out of the West Penobscot Bay for sailing vessels and steamships. The 1903 U. S. Coast Pilot listed seven other Maine storm signal sites at Eastport, West Quoddy Head, Machiasport, Bangor, Marshall Point Light, Boothbay Harbor, and Portland.

Storm warning signal tower and lookout tower on Whitehead Island. Photo courtesy David Gamage

The Lighthouse Service approved a display flagpole near the Whitehead lighthouse at the eastern end of the island in 1887. In 1903 the Weather Bureau received permission to erect a storm warning display tower at the site of this display pole. The new iron skeletal tower was about 56 feet high and had a 24-foot telescoping metal pole extending upward from the tower apex. The top of this pole was 80 feet above the tower base and 155 feet above sea level. Attached to the pole near the apex was a lantern hoist sheave mount and at the bottom was the lantern-hoisting drum. Lanterns were suspended on a 5/16-inch cable. A metal building to store flags, lanterns and lantern fuel sat at the tower base.

A displayman employed by the Weather Bureau was responsible for hoisting and lowering the warning flags as needed and for maintaining the equipment.The displayman also maintained a lens lanterns which, when lit, produced a night signal. Instructions to hoist or to lower the storm warning flags and lanterns were received by telephone from Rockland; these instructions having been sent to Rockland by telegraph from the regional Weather Bureau office in Portland.

The displayman was required to submit a monthly record of wind signal displays to the Weather Bureau. This report included observations as to whether the actual wind direction and strength differed from the forecast as well as notations as to benefits derived by shipping interests, particularly for severe storms and hurricanes.

The first known displayman at Whitehead was Charles Shea, son of the life-saving station keeper. Shea also served as an alternate surfman at the life-saving station. Shea was the displayman until his death in September 1905. His widow Ida Shea replaced him.

Later the Whitehead principal light keeper became the displayman. Keeper Elmer Reed assumed the extra duties of hoisting the weather signals at Whitehead Light on July 27, 1917, for $120 a year. The Weather Bureau employed subsequent head keepers for this service until the early 1930s when the Weather Bureau discontinued the Whitehead Island storm signal display.

Another view of the Whitehead Island light station with the storm warning signal tower in the background. Photo courtesy of David Gamage

When mariners saw the Weather Bureau storm warning signals, they knew to wait out the storm in port or, when at sea, to seek a place of refuge. Unquestionably, these signals were of great benefit in terms of saving life and property.

Submitted by David Gamage, March 3, 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

Lighthouses in Art · News · Society Members

Mystery at Eilean Mor Lighthouse, Scotland

Coffin Road by Peter May

British author Peter May has written another thrilling murder mystery in which the Eilean Mor Lighthouse has a prominent role. The lighthouse is located on an island of the same name in the Flannan Isles off the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. In December of 1900 all three lightkeepers vanished without a trace. In the novel, titled Coffin Road, the main character in the novel regularly visits the island, supposedly writing a book.

For those who went on the lighthouse trip to the Outer Hebrides in 2015, trip leaders Chris and Janet Brookes introduced us to Peter May by giving everyone a copy of another murder mystery, The Blackhouse, so participants could get a sense of life in the Outer Hebrides.

Coffin Road was published in Great Britain in 2016 by Quercus, ISBN 978-1-78429-313-0.

Submitted by Dick Richardson, U.S. Lighthouse Society member, 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