Recently we have been fortunate to find a number of fine Lighthouse and Life-Saving Service items including the rare oil can pictured.
The can is a rare find, both due to its unusual form and its seldom-seen marking. The can is made entirely of copper and bears the marking on the bottom: “U.S. LIGHT HOUSE SERVICE” in large letters. We have seen only one other item marked in this pattern in 15 years — a large brass long-handled dustpan. The side of the can is also marked 1/2 GALLON”. The can base measures 8 1/2” in diameter and tapers upward to about 3 1/2”, then flares out to the spout. Overall height is 8”. The oil can is the first one of this style that we have ever seen and is a great find.
When poking through your local antique and “junk” shops it does indeed pay to check the bottom of such pieces. One time while poking through a booth at the famous Brimfield Flea Market, in a pile of paint brushes, there was a beautiful Shaker-type brush with the letters “USLHS” stamped onto the wooden handle.
Be sure to check out those boxes of photos as well. Many times, mixed in with the numerous family images are the occasional lighthouse keepers, or Life Saving Service or Coast Guard surfmen. Such images can fetch hundreds of dollars but occasionally can be had for $10 or less. Many provide great, clear views of the uniforms and insignia and can add greatly to our understanding of the lives of the men and women who made up these services.
It is through such occasional finds that we can slowly piece together the details of the daily work of the Lighthouse Service. There is no reference on the subject currently (we hope to complete one in the future) but we have heard of a booklet long ago spotted in the National Archives listing all of the equipment manufactured by the Lighthouse Service Lamp Shop, as well as those pieces purchased and otherwise available as well, complete with images and dimensions. We have not yet been able to find it but we will keep trying. Such a piece would greatly add to the available body of knowledge.
We do have available for those interested a photocopy of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Lighthouse Service, Keeper’s Annual Property Return, Requisition, and Receipt Form No. 30. This form covers 24 pages and contains spaces for all items needed by the keeper. When the tender delivered supplies, this form was filled out by the keeper indicating the quantity of each item on hand, received, and used during the year. Each and every possible item is noted, from all sizes of brushes, to boats, burners, lamps, wicks, tools, deflectors, furniture, dinnerware, lamp fittings, paint, books and forms, and much more. The detailed listing is a must for researchers working to properly furnish your lighthouse or museum exhibit or just makes for interesting reading. We have a spiral bound photocopy available for $12 including postage.
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org or visithis web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net
This story appeared in the
July 2006 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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