Building American Lighthouses, 1789-1851

From its earliest days, the U.S. Government took an active role in the protection of the country’s shores and an interest in building and maintaining aids to navigation. The period from George Washington’s presidency to one decade before the Civil War laid important groundwork for the establishing and administration of lighthouses, but it was also a time penny-pinching bureaucracy which ultimately endangered maritime commerce.

No longer would each colony/state control their lighthouses. The first half-century of United States lightkeeping is an era of contrasts, contradictions, and challenges. As the nation debated interpretation of the constitution, it also questioned how lighthouses, their funding, and their administration should fit into the national setting. Lighthouses are clearly part of America’s history and democracy debates – living symbols of triumph in the chambers of Washington and the wave-battered shores. Continue reading