Digest>Archives> December 2009

Collecting Nautical Antiques

Lens Replaced at Cape Cod’s Highland Lighthouse in 1901

By Jim Claflin


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We recently found an extremely rare photo of Cape Cod’s Highland Lighthouse in 1901 with a temporary lighthouse standing beside the main tower.

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In 1857 today’s brick light tower was built and the station’s third lantern was equipped with a first order Fresnel lens from Paris. This new light made Highland Light one of the coast’s most powerful. By 1901 an even more modern Fresnel lens, floating on a bed of mercury, would be installed. During this 1901 retrofit, this temporary tower shown in the photo was erected beside the main tower to provide a proper light. This tower probably was in use for only a matter of months and thus, very few photos of it exist.

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Another wonderful item that I recently obtained is a rare U.S. Lighthouse Service Hains Lamp. I have mentioned in a previous column a pair of Hains mineral oil lamps that I found some time ago. This lamp is of a similar design, but with a bit smaller oil reservoir.

I believe that this style lamp was also used within a 4th. 5th or 6th order Fresnel lens, later as a standby oil lamp should difficulty arise with power for the electric lamp, and in the keeper’s residence for area lighting.

This particular lamp is also fitted with a shade ring and opaque glass shade outside of the chimney, indicating that it’s was indeed used within the keeper’s house. By lifting off the glass shade, the lamp could be used inside the lens. The lamp is entirely of brass, very similar to the earlier Hains lamps, with one circular wick and is complete with a cylindrical brass wick cover.

After the Civil war, in 1866, Peter C. Hains was transferred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and by 1870, he was promoted to the rank of Major, serving as District Engineer for the Fifth Lighthouse District of the U.S. Lighthouse Service. He was responsible for the construction of many lighthouses including the Morris Island Lighthouse and the St. Augustine Lighthouse. By 1873, he was appointed Engineer Secretary of the U.S. Lighthouse Board, serving for five years. While serving on the Board, he translated Memoir Upon the Illumination and Beaconage of the Coasts of France, a standard in European lighthouse design and construction and sought after today. It was during this period in his career that he apparently designed a number of lamps for use within the newly installed Fresnel lenses in this country.

One well known lamp was his Mineral Oil Lamp for 4th, 5th and 6th Order Lenses. Plate No. 3 in the 1881 Instructions to Keepers provides a wonderful diagram with good detail of this important lamp that saw use for many years. Lesser known are his lamps such as these, designed for standby use and for use in the keeper’s quarters as well.

For a great reference including photos and operating instructions on these and other lamps used by the Lighthouse Service, you will want to get Light-House Board, INSTRUCTIONS TO LIGHT-KEEPERS AND MASTERS OF LIGHT-HOUSE VESSELS. GPO. 1902. 104 pp includes 39 plates. Nicely photo-reproduced by the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Assoc., Michigan, 1989. Available in hardcover or soft cover. Makes a great Christmas present.

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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 type 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 December 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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