Digest>Archives> August 2005

Collecting Nautical Antiques

A Recent Find and More Uniforms

By Jim Claflin


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Following our last column, I received a nice letter from James N. in Reston, Virginia. He included photos of a wonderful item, which we first thought could never have been used by the Light House Establishment. The photo showed a post lantern lit by, of all things, a wax or tallow candle. Manufactured by the Post Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, the lantern measures about 23 inches in height and has a ring on top for hanging. On the Fresnel lens is etched “US,” and on the base is attached a brass cartouche nicely marked “U.S.L.H. Est.” In the bottom is inserted a holder for a spring advanced “duty” candle in the center, with five spare candles fitting around the perimeter. As the duty candle burned, the spring would advance the candle to keep the flame constantly in the focal point of the lens. Since we had never heard of any such candle lanterns, we contacted lighthouse lighting expert Thomas A. Tag. Before seeing the photos, Tom was skeptical, but upon seeing the photos, Tom replied, “Wow! I stand corrected. It is surely a candle lantern and is marked as USLHE. This has to be a very rare item. I have not only never seen one before, I have never heard or read of one.”

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If anyone has any knowledge of the Post Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, or knows of a similar lantern, we would love to hear from you. Thanks, Jim, for bringing this outstanding piece to our attention.

We talked in recent columns about the uniform for lighthouse keepers. The masters and mates of lighthouse tenders wore a similar uniform including coat, trousers and vest, differentiated by the ornamentation on the sleeves of the coat.

According to the 1893 Uniform Regulations, sleeve ornaments for the masters of tenders were to be “four stripes of 1/4-inch gold lace laid on at intervals of 1/4 inch – the first stripe to be 2 inches from the bottom of cuff. A silver embroidered lighthouse 3/4 inch high to be laid on the front of the sleeve 1/4 inch above the top stripe.

Mates of tenders were to wear the same uniform as masters of tenders. The sleeve ornaments of the first mate (shown here) was to be three stripes of 1/4-inch lace, surmounted by a silver embroidered lighthouse 3/4 inch high. That of the second mate was two stripes of 1/4-inch lace surmounted by a similar silver embroidered lighthouse, and that of the third mate consisted of one stripe of 1/4-inch lace surmounted by a silver embroidered lighthouse. For the fourth mate, no stripe; simply the silver embroidered lighthouse. When pilots were permanently employed on board of tenders, they were to wear a uniform similar to that of fourth mates.

The cap, like the lighthouse keepers’, was to be of the Navy pattern with adjustable chin strap of gold lace 1/2 inch wide fastened to the sides by two regulation buttons. In the middle of the front of the cap, the emblem consisted of a gold embroidered wreath 1 1/4 inches high by 2 inches spread, inclosing a silver embroidered lighthouse 3/4 inch high. A black mohair braid (band) 1 1/4 inches wide was worn around the cap.

Next time, we will take a look at engineers on lighthouse tenders, and another recent find.

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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. He may be contacted by writing to him at 1227 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602, or by calling (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 August 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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