Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2005

Tower Talk

By Timothy Harrison


In nearly every issue of Lighthouse Digest we featured some vintage images of lighthouses as they appeared years ago as well as photographs of lighthouse keepers and family members at a lighthouse. We usually publish these photos as they become available or are located, which is generally through descendants who have come forward to help preserve their ancestors heritage, or from collectors or history buffs who have located something in an antique store.

Searching for the photographs and memories of lighthouse keepers has always been an ongoing process, however, many people forget that we are also looking for the photographs of other employees of the old U. S. Lighthouse Service, which is just as vital to early maritime history and development of a nation. In fact, compared to lighthouses and their keepers, very little has been written, recorded or published about the rest of the Lighthouse Service.

Scattered around the nation were Lighthouse Depots that manufactured and gathered supplies and equipment for lighthouses. The Lighthouse Depots had office personnel, clerks, laborers, store keepers, machinists, truck drivers, engineers, electricians and each Depot had a keeper, who was the person in charge.

Then there are the Lighthouse Tenders that maintained a wide system of buoys and other navigational aids, delivered supplies to the lighthouses, acted as relief vessels, and handled construction at lighthouse locations. The vessels had a captain, officers, and crewmembers.

Or, how about the little known U. S. Lighthouse Service Airways Division that maintained lights that guided pilots at night and lit up runways in the early stages of aviation?

Let’s not forget the lightships that were stationed in areas where it was too dangerous to build a lighthouse. Those vessels also had a complete crew.

Or what about the U. S. Lighthouse Service headquarters in Washington DC, which had a wide array of employees from clerks, typists, supervisors, architects, to accountants etc.

And let us not forget the lighthouse inspectors and superintendents who were in charge of each lighthouse district.

As we go into the New Year, we are asking for your help in locating and documenting so we can publish and preserve the stories,

memories and photographs of the rest of the United States Lighthouse Service. We believe there are literally hundreds of these items out there and for the most part; people have no idea we are looking for it, to save it for future generations.

It is only through the help of our readers that we can continue to locate and save lighthouse history. Once it is lost, it is gone forever. But, once it is saved, it is saved forever.

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2005 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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