Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2016

Collecting Nautical Antiques

A few rare items

By Jim Claflin


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Lighthouse tender seaman in work uniform loading ...

We are constantly getting in interesting items. Recently we obtained a wonderful lot of Light-House Establishment lamps including a rare Funck Constant Level Fountain lamp.

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Constant Level Lamp. Note that the oil level in ...

Thomas Tag (Technical Advisor, US Lighthouse Society) describes the lamp as: “Funck’s constant level lamps were designed in 1876 and were used until about 1910. They were Argand Single Gravity Feed - Fountain style lamps made by the Third District Lamp Shop on Staten Island. The constant level lamp was used in what was known as a projector light. These projector lights were used with a single small Fresnel bulls-eye lens in front of the lamp as range lights using the constant level lamp backed by a parabolic reflector. They were also used as lights on lightships.” It is possible that they were occasionally used in smaller harbor lights as well.

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Basic Constant Level Lamp configuration with ...

The lamp would have included a glass chimney and is complete including the wick, and a rare set of hinged bracket mounts enabling the lamp to be swung out of the lens for servicing. The Fountain fuel tank is removable and includes a gravity valve on the bottom to control the flow of fuel, and so that it can be lifted out for filling.

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Constant Level lamp when used as a range light of ...

The burner was converted to an Aladdin “B” burner early in the 20th Century by the Lighthouse Service. Many lamps were converted at that time because the Aladdin “B” burner was found to be more efficient and produce a cleaner, brighter flame.

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Lamp with reservoir removed. Note the gravity ...

This is one of only about four Constant Level lamps that I have found in over 25 years. Instructions for use of these lamps was included in the Instructions to Keepers 1902 pp. 29-31 and Plate No. 9.

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Note the black silk hat ribbon (tally) with ...

Another extremely rare item that we just obtained is an early cabinet photo of a Lighthouse Service seaman assigned to either a lightship or a tender. The photo was taken in Astoria, Oregon by Bratt Photographers and is only the second view that I have ever seen showing the Lighthouse Service dress uniform for a seaman. The photo was taken c.1890 – 1900. Unlike the officers of Lighthouse Service vessels, seamen and firemen were rarely photographed both because of the cost of a studio portrait photo and because their jobs were much less glamorous than that of the officers.

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1876 Funck Constant Level Lamp showing fountain ...

The Uniform Regulations of the Lighthouse Service for 1893 describe the prescribed uniform for seamen and firemen as follows: “Seamen and firemen to wear a navy-blue flannel shirt, cut in the navy style, with rolling collar 6 inches deep, with two stripes of ¼ inch white tape, laid on ½ inch apart, extending to the bottom of the bosom opening of shirt, and joined so as to form a continuous line. The cuffs to have two stripes of white tape ¼ inch wide around them, the upper edge of upper stripe to join the gathering· of sleeve to cuff, the second ½ inch below the first.

The corners of the collars to have worked on them, in white thread or cotton, a lighthouse ¾ inch high. If firemen, these ornaments are to be of red tape and embroidered with red thread or cotton.

Hats for winter to be dark blue cloth, round crowned, with a stitched band above the brim ¼ inch wide. The brim to be 2 ½ inches broad, of double cloth. stitched through and through with 12 or 14 rows of stitching of black silk to stiffen it. A black silk ribbon 1 ¼ inches wide, with “Light-House Service” embroidered in gold wire letters 1 ½ inches high, to be worn around the crown, joining the binding of crown. Hats of similar design in brown canvas to be of same shade as canvas overall suits, but without ribbons, to be worn with overall suits when working.

For winter weather work a watch cap of the navy pattern, knitted of dark blue yarn, will he worn by crew to protect the ears.

In summer a Mackinaw straw hat, with a crown 4 inches high and brim from 2 ½ to 3 inches broad, will be worn by crew. A black ribbon, with” Light-House Service” worked in gold letters ½ inch high, will be worn around crown of Mackinaw hats.

Overall suits to consist of brown cotton jumper suits, with 5-inch deep collars, and pantaloons of same material, to be worn over uniform to protect it when working.

Overcoats to be of navy-blue cloth, double-breasted, with five black gutta-percha buttons on each side. The top button to be near the collar, the lower button 6 inches from the bottom - the other buttons spaced equally between the top and bottom buttons. The skirts to descend halfway from hip to knees. Rain suits of oiled canvas, consisting of a jumper, pantaloons, and southwester, known as Cape Anns, will be worn in wet weather by the crews of tenders and lightships.”

This is a wonderful view of a rarely seen worker of the United States Lighthouse

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2016 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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