Messy & Disgraceful Lighthouse History

Lighthouses were government property; we lived in them, but anyone – inspector, citizen, or military – could come to the house, expecting to find hospitality and order. If the inspector thought the lighthouse wasn’t clean or we were wasting supplies, he could dismiss us in disgrace. (Lighthouse Loyalty, Chapter 1)

No, no, lighthouses aren’t supposed to messy and disgraceful. In fact, that would be explicitly against the lighthouse keeping rules made and enforced by the U.S. Lighthouse Board or the Bureau of Lighthouses.

However, it’s worth taking a look at the “darker side” of lighthouse history. What about the few keepers who failed in their duties? What did they do? And what was the punishment? Continue reading

Those Beautiful Lighthouse Lenses

Ever seen something practical, but it was just so mesmerizingly beautiful you couldn’t stop looking at it? You wanted to see it safe and protected forever as a piece of art…

That’s the way I feel about Fresnel Lenses. They were/are beautifully cut glass lenses used in lighthouses. Many are well over a hundred years old, and happily some of them have found safe homes in maritime or lighthouse museums.

Today, I’ll share briefly about how the lenses worked, a story about Fresnel lenses during the American Civil War, and a couple that I’ve seen in museums. Continue reading

Lighthouses: Lamps & Lenses

We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about lighthouses along the U.S. coasts – New England, Middle Atlantic, Southern and Gulf, West, and Great Lakes. While we talked about architecture features, we didn’t focus on the absolute most important part of a lighthouse. In fact, take this factor away and you’d just have a building, just a house.

I’m talking about light. What produced the light and sent warning beams blazing into the darkness to warn or guide passing ships? That is today’s topic. Continue reading