Digest>Archives> Aug/Sep 2004

Collecting Nautical Antiques

Lighthouse Service Pail

By Jim Claflin


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Jeff Shook of the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy (www.michiganlights.com) recently obtained a beautiful pail made of brass, complete with a wooden handle on a heavy wire bail and side-pouring handle. The body is marked “U.S. Light-House Establishment.” This is a great find and is the first such item that I have ever seen.

Such pails would have been used for the obvious, but even more important for such duties as fire protection. The 1902 Instructions to Keepers notes that at light stations, “Every precaution must be taken against fire. Fire buckets, when provided, must be kept filled with water and ready for use in a fixed place.” On light vessels, the instructions noted “Fire buckets must be kept on deck in the most convenient place for use and when the temperature will permit, filled with water at sunset of every day. They are, on no account, to be kept between decks at night.”

An interesting collectible set that you might consider is the Lighthouse and Lightship Trade Cards. Such beautiful multi-colored trade cards were made in the late 1880s, each showing very nice, close, multi-colored images of lighthouses, light vessels or buoys. These fantastic cards were issued by the Duke Tobacco Company as an insert premium in their brands of Honest Long Cut Tobacco and Cigarettes in 1889. These cards formed the basis of a fairly rare series of 25 cards titled “Lighthouses” and are designated as N119 in Burdick's American Card Catalogue. The front of each card features a colorful die cut image of a particular lighthouse, light vessel or buoy, while the back features advertising for Duke Tobacco. The lithography for the cards is exceptional, full of vibrant color and detail, and was done by the Giles Co. of New York, labeled “Smoke and Chew Honest Long Cut Tobacco” on the obverse. Trade cards were used like our present day advertising or business cards. Each card measured approximately 4”w x 2½”h. This is a very pretty set to collect and display. Some of the locations include: Vineyard Sound Light Vessel; Race Rock Lighthouse; Penfield Reef Lighthouse; Point Judith Lighthouse, Minot's Ledge Lighthouse; Cape Cod (Highland) Lighthouse; Fire Island Lighthouse, Stratford Shoal Lighthouse; Sanibel Island Lighthouse; Florida, Bell Buoy and more.

Like our column? Have suggestions for future subjects? Please send your suggestions and questions or a photograph of an object that you need help dating or identifying. We will include the answer to a selected inquiry as a regular feature each month in our column.

Jim Claflin is a recognized authority on antiques of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Life-Saving Service, Revenue Cutter Service and early Coast Guard. In addition to authoring and publishing a number of books on the subject, Jim is the owner of Kenrick A. Claflin & Son Nautical Antiques. In business since 1956, he has specialized in antiques of this specialty since the early 1990s. You may write to him at 1227 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602, or call (508) 792-6627. You may also contact him by email jclaflin@lighthouseantiques.net or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net.

This story appeared in the Aug/Sep 2004 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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