Digest>Archives> April 2009

Rare Telescope Donated For Lighthouse

By Kathleen Finnegan


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George Morrison holding the rare telescope that ...

An extremely rare telescope once used by the United States Life Saving Service to watch for shipwrecks off the downeast coast of Maine will soon have a new home at the maritime exhibit at Cutler’s Little River Lighthouse.

The rare brass telescope, presented to Tim Harrison, co-chairman of the Friends of Little River Lighthouse, has been in the possession of George Morrison of Oak Bay, New Brunswick, Canada for many years. He inherited it from his father. When presenting the telescope to Harrison, Morrison said, “I now know that the telescope will have a good home and I entrust it to Harrison’s care for future generations.”

Exceptionally rare, the late 1800’s hand-held brass telescope was manufactured by “Bardou & Son,” specifically for the United States Life Saving Service, which in 1915, along with the United States Revenue Cutter Service, were merged together to become the United States Coast Guard. The all brass telescope is engraved with the Bardou and Son and U.S. Life Saving Service trademarks and has a canvas cover on the main tube. It measures 23 inches when closed, telescoping to 39 inches when extended. It still has its original eyepiece and object dust slide, the latter being incorporated into a press-on cover, which may be fully removed.

Research seems to indicate very few of the telescopes were commissioned of Bardou by the Life Saving Service, probably because they were so expensive at the time.

Where, when, and how Morrison’s father acquired the telescope is unclear, but it is speculated it probably came from the original Maine stations of, Quoddy Head Life Saving Station in Lubec or the Cross Island Life Saving Station in Machiasport. Both structures no longer stand, although they were replaced by other structures, which are no longer owned by the government. Interestingly, both Morrison and his father were in the United States Coast Guard, and at different times, both were stationed at some of the same lighthouses as well as the same Coast Guard stations during their careers. In fact, the Morrison family was the last lighthouse family to be stationed at the no longer standing St. Croix River Lighthouse in Calais.

This is not the first time that Morrison has made important donations of artifacts that will now be displayed at Little River Lighthouse. He donated a rare Seth Thomas brass clock for Little River Lighthouse that once hung at Cross Island Life Saving Station, as well as a 1911 Light List book.

Last year, Morrison and his wife, Wendy, also served as volunteer caretakers at the nearly restored lighthouse. Morrison said he was so impressed by what the many volunteers, had accomplished that he was inspired to contribute to the cause as his way of helping to preserve not only his family’s maritime history, but to also teach others through the display of artifacts.

This story appeared in the April 2009 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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