This August will see the seventh set of lighthouse postage stamps to be issued by the United States Postal Service and we are elated for the great public attention that this brings to our nation’s lighthouses. But now is the time to honor another vital aspect of our nation’s lighthouse history – the lightships.
A lightship is basically a floating lighthouse that was stationed out in the water to mark dangerous shoals or sandbars in locations where it was too dangerous, too expensive, or too impractical, to build a lighthouse. Just as a lighthouse does not move from its location, the crew of the lightship was not allowed to move the vessel from its location, regardless of the weather conditions. Many considered lightship duty the most boring and mundane of jobs in the U.S. Lighthouse Service and later the Coast Guard. It was also considered the most dangerous.
Ever since President George Washington authorized the first lightship on the Delaware River in 1793, there have been a number of lightship incidents where lives were lost. Some of the more notable ones were: the loss of the Cross Rip Lightship LV-6 and its six- man crew in January of 1918; the loss of the Vineyard Haven Lightship on September 14, 1944 with the loss of its twelve-man crew; and the Nantucket Lightship LV-117 which was rammed by the RMS Olympic on May 15, 1934 killing seven members of its crew.
There are no longer any lightships in operation. Most have been lost to time, but there are still a number of them that remain in private ownership, or repurposed as floating museums, such as the Overfalls Lightship LV-118, the Huron Lightship LV-103, the Relief Lightship LV-605, the Chesapeake Lightship LV116 and the Nantucket Lightships LV-112, LV-116, and LV-613.
Lightships meet all the criteria that the government requires for a series of postage stamps. But, the advisory committee needs to hear from you, our readers, with your appeal to request that they issue a set of postage stamps honoring our nation’s historic lightships. You can write to them at:
Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300
Washington, DC 20260-3501
Thank you for your help. Perhaps together, we can all help the government commemorate and preserve this vital part of lighthouse history.
Editor & Publisher
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2021 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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