Digest>Archives> September 2007

Collecting Nautical Antiques

U.S. Lighthouse Tender Poppy

By Jim Claflin


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We recently obtained a great lot of photographs taken by the Murray & Tregurtha, Inc company in Quincy, Mass.

In 1885, Murray & Tregurtha, Inc. was founded in the greater Boston area to manufacture steam powered marine propulsion systems. By 1905 the company had pioneered the design and building of gasoline marine propulsion engines, which they produced until 1937. During World War II they developed and produced a steerable Marine Outboard Drive unit that was used extensively by the military on self-propelled barges.

The photographs were taken by this builder, of each vessel that they had re-powered and included in the lot was this large 8x10 photo of the U.S. Lighthouse Tender Poppy.

The Poppy was unusual in that she was a small vessel, 61 feet in length and had been built in 1918 for the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps for use as a harbor launch. Her original cost was $20,989. She was transferred to the Lighthouse Service in 1922 and placed in service in 1923. She was assigned to the Seventh Light House District in Florida and used as a buoy boat, with a compliment of two officers and three men.

The label on the back of the photo notes that in 1933 she was re-powered by Murray & Tregurtha with one of their Model M-O-6 engines, giving her a 10 1/2 mph speed in a trial run made in April that year. She continued to serve in the Seventh District until 1938, when she was sold or transferred.

If you would like more information on tenders of the Lighthouse Service, a great resource is U.S. Lighthouse Service Tenders, by Douglas Peterson (U.S.C.G. Retired). Published by Eastwind Publishing in 2000, this is the first book to feature all of the lighthouse tenders and auxiliary craft of the United States Lighthouse service from 1840 until 1939. Lighthouse Tenders, the lifeline to the keepers of America’s lighthouses and lightships, towed lightships, tended buoys, carried necessities and saved lives day and night, in weather fair or foul. Without these services the keepers of America’s lighthouses and lightships could not have survived. More than 150 years ago the first tender was launched, to be followed by 300 ships of varying design used for lighthouse service-all of which are presented in this thoroughly researched book. Vintage photographs, drawings, plans and statistics illustrate the historic profile of each ship. With over 175 b/w photos and plans, this book would be a fine addition to any lighthouse library.

Like our column? Have suggestions for future subjects?

Please send in your suggestions and questions, or a photograph of an object that you need help dating or identifying. We will include the answer to a selected inquiry as a regular feature each month in our column.

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 September 2007 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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