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Featured on our web site and in our monthly web catalogues are new and out-of-print books, documents, post cards, photographs, maps and charts, engravings, lithographs, uniforms and insignia, tools, lamps, lens apparatus, equipment and apparatus and much more relating to these heroic services.
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Lighthouse - Life-Saving - Coast Guard Antiques Blog
Posted on July 22, 2016
Just Arrived: DVD The Finest Hours
Images Copyright Walt Disney Studio Pictures
1686. (DVD) The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue. DVD. Run time 114 min. PG-13. Based on the extraordinary true story of the greatest smallboat rescue in Coast Guard history, THE FINEST HOURS is a tale of courage, loyalty and honor in the face of overwhelming odds. When a massive storm strikes off the coast of Cape Cod, it rips a T-2 oil tanker in half, trapping more than 30 sailors on its rapidly sinking stern. As BM1 Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his crew set out in the station 36-foot motor lifeboat to save them, Chief Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) struggles to buy his men more time. Packed with heroic larger-than-life action and driven by the men's faith in their mission, themselves and one another, THE FINEST HOURS is a triumph. The Finest Hours has incredible and astonishing true-to-life heroism and action-packed rescue scenes. This marvelous and terrifying yarn ( Los Angeles Times ) deserves a place as a classic of survival at sea ( The Boston Globe). In the days following the ordeal, twenty-one Coast Guardsmen involved in multiple rescue missions would be decorated. Movie is based upon the original 1985 account by Coxswain BM1 Bernard Webber. $29.95. (x)
1686b. (BLU) The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue. BLU. $34.95.
Posted on July 10, 2015
Disney's THE FINEST HOURS - a movie based on the extraordinary true story of the Coast Guard's greatest small boat rescue in history is coming to a movie theater near you early in 2016.
A heroic action-thriller, “The Finest Hours” is the remarkable true story of the greatest small boat rescue in Coast Guard history off Chatham, Mass.
Watch the movie trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQmllwTKtqU
Read first-hand of the rescue in Coxswain Bernie Webber's book, now available again:
20209. Webber, Bernard C., CHATHAM
Special numbered edition with actual wood piece from MLB CG-36500. $59.95.
Posted on March 11, 2015
Watch Hill Light Station Keeper William Ivan Clark c.1970 – the last civilian keeper at Watch Hill, RI.
Photo courtesy John Carter.
With Keeper Clark is John Carter, who was with USCG, Group New London, from 1967 until 1971 and had the privilege of working with keeper Clark. Carter noted that “Keeper Clark and his wife Marion were great folks and treated all the Coast Guard crew like family! It was a great duty station.” Keeper Clark was in charge at Watch Hill from 1959 until his death in 1970, shortly after this photo was taken. Thanks to John Carter for this photo.
Posted on September 2, 2014
Work Continues on Upkeep and Restoration of Boston Light Station.
Photo courtesy Coast Guard Keeper Sally Snowman.
The $1.1 million project to repair and renovate structures at Boston Light began in May of this year. The project is intended to preserve the structural integrity of the lighthouse tower and surrounding buildings and assists in preparing for the light station’s upcoming tricentennial celebrations in 2016. The ongoing refurbishment plan includes an underground storage tank remediation, a new exterior coating to the lighthouse, new cedar roofs on all structures, new windows in the lighthouse keeper’s quarters, and painting of all structures. A new sewage treatment plant and temporary roof repairs have already been completed.
Likewise, Work Continues by Owners Dave Waller and Family as they Lovingly Restore Nearby Graves Station in Boston Harbor.
Photo courtesy David Waller..
Posted on March 26, 2014
Blizzard at Nauset Coast Guard Station, Eastham, Cape Cod. Storm left 6-12" of snow, winds gusting over 75 mph.
Photo by Richard Ryder.
Posted on November 25, 2013
Hull Life-Saving Museum - 125th Anniversary of the Great Storm of 1888
125 years ago today, Joshua James and Hull's Massachusetts Humane Society volunteer crews began two days of tireless and continuous rescue work. In what came to be known as the Great Storm of 1888, Hull's volunteers, led by Capt. James, would save 29 men from five vessels.
Thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard website, you can read Joshua James' own account of the rescue here: Joshua James 1888 Storm Interview
Visit the Hull Lifesaving Museum to see our Great Storm of 1888 exhibit, opening November 30th, and to learn more about these inspiring rescues.
For more information visit www.hulllifesavingmuseum.org
Posted on December 7, 2012
Coast Guard Rescue from HMS Bounty
If you can, the Weather Channel on TV is showing a 1 hour documentary on the CG rescue of the crew from the Bounty last month.
The entire rescue was filmed by cameras in the CG aircraft – well worth watching , spectacular scenes highlighting the heroic efforts by the Coast Guard rescue swimmers and air crews. They are airing it a couple times each day on the Weather Channel.
Posted on November 7, 2012
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Maine by Andrew Price.
Lovely Fall photo of Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse at sunset by noted photographer and lighthouse historian Andrew Price.
For hundreds of vintage Maine lighthouse photos, books and more be sure to see our Maine page on our web site.
Posted on October 29, 2012
HMS Bounty, Ship From 'Pirates Of The Caribbean II' Abandoned By Crew During Hurricane Sandy - some Sailors Feared Lost.
(AP) PORTSMOUTH, Va. -- The Coast Guard has rescued 14 members of the crew forced to abandon the tall ship HMS Bounty caught in Hurricane Sandy off the North Carolina Outer Banks. The Coast Guard is searching for two other crew members. It corrected the total number of crew to 16 from 17. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brandyn Hill says 14 people were rescued by two Coast Guard helicopters about 6:30 a.m. Monday. The survivors were being taken to Air Station Elizabeth City on the North Carolina coast. The director of the HMS Bounty Organization, Tracie Simonin, said that the tall ship left Connecticut last week for St. Petersburg, Fla. She said the crew had been in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center and tried to go around the storm. For more information http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57541911/hurricane-sandy-14-rescued-after-abandoning-hms-bounty-off-n.c-coast-2-still-missing/ .
Posted on July 20, 2012
Loss of the Steamship SS Portland:
November 26 in the year 1898 dawned quietly, with high clouded skies and only a light wind. Aboard the 291-foot steamer Portland boarding passengers at India Wharf in Boston, the crew and passengers looked forward to a good voyage and their return home after a long Thanksgiving holiday. But, by the evening of the 27th, surfmen patrolling the outer beach of Cape Cod would begin to find wreckage washing ashore including a life-belt lettered with the words “Steamer Portland of Portland”....
Read about the loss of the Portland and what would come to be known as "The Portland Gale" in our column Collecting Lighthouse Antiques in Lighthouse Digest Magazine, available now by subscription and on their web site at www.LighthouseDigest.com .
For antique books, photos and artifacts from the Portland, visit our Antiques page on our web site.
Posted on May 12, 2012
Lighthouse Service Antiques at the Brimfield Antiques Show:
This week we again made our way to the famous Brimfield Antiques Show – A sure sign of spring. Since the 1960′s we have rarely missed a season (The show is held for ten days each in May, July and September each year.). Each show hosts tens of thousands of antique dealers over a one mile stretch of Route 20. Over 250,000 buyers spend the ten days searching for those items that they collect. Literally anything that you want to find can be found here. For myself, I look for Lighthouse Service, Life-Saving Service and early Coast Guard items.
This week I was fortunate to find a wonderful album of early c.1880′s photographs and an early porcelain Lighthouse Service sign. I always come back with something great, and if I don’t, it is well worth the time enjoying the weather, talking (and haggling) with the antique dealers, and listening to others doing the same in a number of languages (Folks come from all over the globe to visit these shows each year. To see a few of the items that I found this trip, take a look at our Recent Additions page on our web site.
For more information on the three yearly Brimfield shows, check one of the many Brimfield Antique Show web sites.
Posted on April 19, 2012
Piping Plovers & Engagement at Race Point Lighthouse:
We spent last work at Race Point lighthouse - almost ready for the summer season. The solar hot water is working, as is the solar voltaic and wind power - we all should be considering such alternate clean forms of energy... and it is FREE.
The piping plovers are again preparing their nesting spots this spring. We now have 4-8 nesting pair in the vicinity of the light station. It is wonderful to see these endangered birds coming back, though slowly and still in danger. Piping plovers were common along the Atlantic Coast during much of the 19th century, but nearly disappeared due to excessive hunting for the millinery trade. Following passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, numbers recovered to a 20th Century peak which occurred during the 1940s. The current population decline is attributed to increased development and recreational use of beaches since the end of World War II. The most recent surveys place the Atlantic population at less than 1800 pairs. We still need to take great care in protecting this and other species that we have hunted almost to extinction. For more information on our and the NPS efforts to protect the piping plovers and other species at Race Point, take a look at the American Lighthouse Foundation page "Teamwork Protects the Piping Plover and Keeps Access Open to Race Point Light Station".
While there, a wonderful girl received an offer that she will never forget - and a beautiful ring too. And she said "YES". Congratulations to Renee and Ryan.
Posted on March 26, 2012
Reminiscences of Nauset Life Boat Station by Michael J. Maynard:
the summer of 1935 the station was paid a visit by a very distinguished
gentleman. It was during a thunderstorm that Secretary of the Treasury Henry
Morgenthau and a group of friends rushed to the station for shelter. Captain
George Nickerson, keeper of the station, (not knowing who they were) offered
them a tour of the station. Secretary Morgenthau took Nickerson aside and made
his identity known. Mr. Morgenthau thanked the Keeper for his gracious
hospitality and asked if there was anything he could do for him. Captain
Nickerson, with his quiet manner and dry humor, told his guest of the
inconveniences his boys were subjected to by the lack of modern accommodations.
The Secretary told him he’d see what he could do and when they left the
Captain figured that would be the last they’d hear from him. However, two
weeks later the district engineers came down and started to survey the land. On
January 9, 1937, the new station was opened. Talk about cutting red tape!....”
more of this wonderful account of early life at one of Cape Cod’s Coast Guard
stations, be sure to visit the web site of the Coast
Guard Heritage Museum is located in Barnstable Village on Cape Cod, MA. The
museum is open from May through October and houses one of the best collections
on Coast Guard history in the country – well worth a visit if you are in the
early photos of this and other Cape Cod Life Saving and Coast Guard stations,
take a look at our Cape Cod page on our web site.
Posted on March 20, 2012
Do you know where this is ?.
I recently picked up this c.1920-1930 photo of this unidentified U.S. lighthouse. Note the tall flag mast to the left. There is also a U.S. Life-Saving station nearby as evidenced by the surfboat crew launching for the daily drill. There is also another double-ended boat sitting on the dune top. Photo measures 3 1/2" x 5 1/2".
The first person to identify this location and I can confirm it, this original photo is yours free.
Posted on March 20, 2012
Historic Plum Island, Newburyport, Mass.
(later Plum Island life-saving station)
I recently had the opportunity to visit Plum Island on the Massachusetts North Shore. The island contains a wealth of lighthouse and Life-Saving Service history and with a little searching there are wonderful sights to be seen. Plum Island, a nine-mile long barrier island off the northern coast of Massachusetts. During its nineteenth-century heyday as a resort, steamships and a trolley line serviced Plum Island. The present Plum Island Lighthouse was first lighted on September 20, 1898, probably the third or fourth lighthouse on this site. The lighthouse still exists and is worth the trip. The Friends of Plum Island Light continue to care for it under a lease agreement with the city. The keeper's house is used as housing for an official of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Plum Island Light is easily reachable by car, and the lighthouse is sometimes open to the public on summer weekends.
Another location worth searching for is the early Plum Island (Merrimack River) Life-Saving Station. Constructed in 1873-1877, this early 1874-Type station is one of only a few remaining in the country. Although it is now a private residence, you can recognize it by its Gothic and Stick Style architecture. It can be photographed from the street (please don't intrude on the owner's land) and is worth the trip too. Who knows what else you will find while you are searching for this station.
For a number of wonderful early photos and books on the Plum Island stations, including PLUM ISLAND RECOLLECTIONS, (loaded with 80 never before published vintage photographs of the life of the U.S. life-savers on Plum Island - well worth the read) see our Recent Additions page.
Posted on March 12, 2012
Moving the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station to Provincetown in 1977.
Moving the 1898 Old Harbor Life Saving Station by Barge in 1977. In 1977-1978 the National Park Service rescued the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station from the encroaching ocean on Chatham’s outer beach. The station was built in 1898 and was one of thirteen life-saving stations on outer Cape Cod. The station was lifted by crane, in two sections, onto a barge and moved to Provincetown Harbor for the winter, 36 miles away. The following year the station was placed on a new foundation at Race Point Beach on the Cape Cod National Seashore and restored. Today the station serves as a museum on the U.S. Life Saving Service. This photo was taken on November 30, 1977 by M. Leo Tierney of the Boston Herald American. For this photo, books on the history of this station, and on Life-Saving Service history on Cape Cod and in other areas, check out our Life Saving Service page and our Cape Cod page. A great book is shown below. Mention this Blog page and receive a 10% discount on the price.
The station will be open in another month for visitors - well worth the trip to see the exhibits, not to mention some of the best outer beaches in the country. Also, take a look at the NPS Old Harbor Life-Saving Station web site.
Ryder, Richard G. Seashore Sentinel: The Old Harbor
Lifesaving Station on Cape Cod. West Barnstable. 2009. 120p. Soft
wraps. This latest account of the history and life at Cape Cod’s Old Harbor
Life-Saving Station updates his older work -
Posted on February 27, 2012
Work to Begin at Whaleback Light Station.
Bob Trapani, Jr., American Lighthouse
Foundation (ALF) Executive Director, reports that there is one universal trait
that shines brighter than any other in the lighthouse preservation field -
the ‘can do’ attitude that is exhibited by so many of today’s modern
day ‘keepers.’ Nowhere is this more evident than at offshore lights,
especially those towers presiding over wave-swept ledges.
Maine’s Whaleback Lighthouse,
situated at the entrance to the Piscataqua River between Kittery, Maine, and New
Castle, New Hampshire is one such place. The rugged 1872 sentinel is owned by
the American Lighthouse Foundation and under the care of the organization’s
local chapter, Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses.
When it comes to offshore projects,
getting there by boat, and coping with the vagaries of the sea at the same time
are one challenge, but even when you get there, the act of disembarking
volunteers and equipment raises a whole new set of difficulties.
Rarely is there a day when the seas
are calm enough to erase the difficulties associated with affecting a landing at
this location, which is fraught with rocks and constantly impacted by powerful
surges and some of the fastest currents in the world that flow in and out of the
Given the realities at Whaleback, the
Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses have but one option if this beloved
lighthouse is to be saved – to establish a safe and durable docking system at
the site that can serve as a springboard for all things preservation and
First, before establishing a boat
landing and series of walkways / ramps at the lighthouse, the east and west
stone breakwaters at the lighthouse must first be repaired.
Over many decades, powerful storms
have taken their toll on the breakwaters, slowly dismantled them. Today much of
the stonework that once comprised these protective walls has been strewn about
the site to the point where the original purpose of the breakwaters has all but
been rendered ineffective.
In order to repair the rock armor at
Whaleback a marine company with a barge and crane – and ample experience with
undertaking work at exposed locations, will be required.
Once the American Lighthouse
Foundation obtains the approval of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission,
work at the site is expected to begin not long thereafter. But of course, like
all things at Whaleback Light, weather and seas will have a lot to say about
things before all is said and done!
For more information on their plans
and photos of this daunting light station sight, take a look at the ALF
Whaleback Light Station web site. Stay tuned too for exciting updates on
this project over the coming year.
For antique photos and other information on Whaleback Light Station, take a look at our Maine Items web page .
Posted on February 27, 2012
The North Atlantic right whale, among the world’s rarest mammals, has returned to Provincetown waters weeks ahead of schedule and in stunning numbers, likely drawn by the unusually warm waters after a historically mild winter. The waters off New England this month are about 5 degrees warmer than in past years. "All of nature is ahead of itself,’’ said Michael Moore, senior research specialist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Such sightings don't usually occur in the Provincetown area until mid-April, when as many as half of the world's population can venture into the area following food supplies.
The Boston Globe reminds us that there are only about 475 North Atlantic right whales left in the world, and many gather each spring in the rich feeding grounds of Cape Cod Bay, drawing crowds of onlookers with their acrobatic breaches. But this winter, researchers first spotted the enormous creatures in mid-December, and have since identified almost three dozen more. With each new sighting, some within 300 yards of shore, scientists have grown more amazed.
Posted on February 20, 2012
The Fire Island Light Station recently had their original First Order Fresnel Lens and clockwork rotating mechanism returned, and both are currently on display in their new lens building. However, the clockwork is missing the handle that would wind the cable. We wonder if any readers might have any idea where they could locate a handle?
Posted on February 16, 2012
Nantucket Lightship/LV-112 Restoration Update:
The owner reports that as of mid-February, LV-112 is in dry-dock, nearing completion of Phase 1 of hull restoration. The crew at Fitzgerald Shipyard are doing a great job and progressing well. The historic ship now has several coats of high quality two-part epoxy industrial marine coatings painted on her hull's exterior. Before applying the coatings, LV-112's hull was cleaned, sandblasted, inspected and repaired. Most of the marine coatings were generously donated by Sherwin-Williams / Seaguard Marine, Industrial Marine Coatings Division. John Bouthillette, the dedicated marine representative from Sherwin-Williams, was a tremendous help in securing this donation and guiding the process for preparing and applying the coatings. Phase 2 of LV-112's restoration, to be performed by Amex, Inc., of East Boston, will be the entire weather deck, deck houses and superstructure. He hopes to have this portion of the ship's exterior completed by summer 2012.
For more information on the progress of the restoration, check out the Nantucket Lightship/LV-112 web site.
For more great restoration photos, take a look on the U.S. Coast Guard Lightship Sailors Association web site.
For more historical information and antiques from U.S. lightships, take a look at our Lightships page.
Posted on February 14, 2012
Late in February 1952, a northeaster
BM1 Bernard C. Webber, coxswain of motor lifeboat CG-36500, from Station Chatham, Massachusetts, and his crew of three headed out over the dreaded Chatham [sand] bars toward the stricken tanker Pendleton. Webber maneuvered the 36-footer under the Pendleton's stern with expert skill as the tanker's crew, trapped in the stern section, abandoned the wreck of their ship on a Jacobs ladder and, with the aid Webber's crew, made their way down and into the Coast Guard motor-lifeboat.
Webber and his crew of three, EN3 Andrew Fitzgerald; SN Richard Livesey; and SN Irving Maske, saved 32 of the 33 Pendleton's crewmen who were on the stern section of the ship that night. All four Coast Guardsmen were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for their heroic actions. Their successful rescue operation has been noted as one of the greatest in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Webber and his men will be honored this month in Chatham, and at Coast Guard First District Headquarters in Boston:
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 1-3pm, U.S. Coast Guard First District Headquarters, Base Boston, 427 Commercial St., Building No. 1 (function hall). Anniversary celebration of the famous Pendleton/Fort Mercer rescues on Feb. 18, 1952, off the coast of Chatham. Among several displays, the event will feature exhibits from the USCG Heritage Museum (Cape Cod) and the U.S. Lightship Museum (LV-112). Open to general public.
Saturday, Feb. 18, 12-4:30pm, Coast Guard Station Chatham, Open House, 60th Anniversary of Pendleton/Fort Mercer Rescues. Guest speakers, imagery, artifacts; meet people involved in the rescues. Open to general public.
Saturday, Feb. 18, 6pm, Chatham Bars Inn, Chatham. Dinner titled "Tales from the Sea." Dining and lecture on the 60th anniversary of the Pendleton/Fort Mercer rescues. Kicks off with a champagne reception, followed by a sumptuous three-course dinner and lecture by Casey Sherman, co-author of "The Finest Hours," the story behind the rescue (see book details on our Cape Cod web page) The dinner is $65 per person; reservations required; call 508-945-0096.
For more information about the CG-36500 - the Coast Guard motor-lifeboat that was used that night and its restoration take a look at their web site CG-36500.
At the 50th Anniversary of the Rescue: The crew of the CG-36500 -Bernard Webber (deceased), Andrew Fitzgerald, Richard Livesey (deceased) and Irving Maske (deceased).
Coast Guard Congressional Gold Life-Saving Medals. To:
Bernard C. Webber
Awarded 7 May 1952
The Citation: “On 18 February 1952, during a violent winter gale the tanker SS Pendleton broke in two in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Cod, MA. Shortly thereafter, Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat No. CG-36500 with BM1 Bernard C. Webber as officer-in-charge and EN2 (P) Andrew J. Fitzgerald, SN Richard P. Livesey and SN Ervin E. Maske as crewmembers departed the Lifeboat Station to render assistance. The seas were extremely high and rough, with northwest winds between forty and fifty miles per hour. Visibility was poor due to darkness and intermittent snow squalls. After crossing the hazardous Chatham bar, the CG-36500 rounded up to the stern section of the SS Pendleton, where thirty-three survivors were waiting to be rescued. Numerous passes were necessary to take off all the survivors. There was no light except a spotlight on the CG-36500 and, as the SS Pendleton rolled, the CG-36500 darted in and out, sometimes under the bilge keel, taking off a few men each time. Only one man was lost during the rescue operations. Shortly after the last man was taken aboard, and the CG-36500 had gotten underway the stern section of the SS Pendleton capsized. The CG-36500 with crew and thirty-two survivors returned safely to the Chatham Fish Pier.”
Posted on February 10, 2012
We just picked up a hard-to-find book
from the author Ralph Shanks: LIGHTHOUSES OF
Soon too we will be back at Race Point getting cleaned up and painted from the "winter", ready to host guests for the spring and summer. About half of the dunes that you see in this photo have been lost to the sea in the last four years. We are now about 200 feet from the beach. I will keep you posted of the changes that have occurred over the winter.
Over the last decades, New England has already started to feel the effects of global climate change. Snow cover is decreasing and spring arrives earlier most years now. Many scientists predict that we may be headed for a Boston climate much like that of Charlotte, North Carolina, or Atlanta, Georgia. Think about it.....
Posted on February 1, 2012
Anyone who truly enjoys reading of the life of a lighthouse keeper, or of the charm of Cape Cod, should surely read Henry David Thoreau’s account of his visit with the keeper of Cape Cod (Highland) Lighthouse, and his walk from Eastham to Provincetown in 1849 and again in 1855. In this renown work, Thoreau records his adventures and sights as he trekked the outer beaches, and the humor of the “local, self-reliant folk”.
Thoreau first published his account of his visit with the light keeper (possibly Keeper James Small (1843-1849 and 1853-1856), in The Atlantic Monthly as “The Highland Light” [Vol. XIV. December 1864, pp. 649-659]. Later, in 1865, he published the complete account of his Cape Cod treks under the title “Cape Cod” In it, Chapter VII included his account of his stay at Highland Lighthouse.
I have reproduced here a small portion of his account for your enjoyment, I hope:
“….To-day the air was beautifully clear, and the sea no longer dark and stormy, though the waves still broke with foam along the beach, but sparkling and full of life…. The sun rose visibly at such a distance over the sea that the cloud-bank in the horizon, which at first concealed him, was not perceptible until he had risen high behind it, and plainly broke and dispersed it, like an arrow. But as yet I looked at him as rising over land, and could not, without an effort, realize that he was rising over the sea. Already I saw some vessels on the horizon, which had rounded the Cape in the night, and were now well on their watery way to other lands…. We struck the beach again in the south part of Truro. In the early part of the day, while it was flood tide and the beach was narrow and soft, we walked on the bank, which was very high here, but not so level as the day before, being more interrupted by slight hollows…. Thus we kept on along the gently curving shore, seeing two or three miles ahead at once…. We saw this forenoon a part of the wreck of a vessel, probably the Franklin, a large piece fifteen feet square, and still freshly painted. With a grapple and a line we could have saved it, for the waves repeatedly washed it within cast, but they as often took it back…. This light-house, known to mariners as the Cape Cod or Highland Light, is one of our "primary sea-coast lights," and is usually the first seen by those approaching the entrance of Massachusetts Bay from Europe. It is forty-three miles from Cape Ann Light, and forty-one from Boston Light. It stands about twenty rods from the edge of the bank, which is here formed of clay.… It rises one hundred and ten feet above its immediate base, or about one hundred and twenty-three feet above mean low water…. Even this vast clay bank is fast wearing away. Small streams of water trickling down it at intervals of two or three rods, have left the intermediate clay in the form of steep Gothic roofs fifty feet high or more….
The Highland Light-house, where we were staying, is a substantial-looking building of brick, painted white, and surmounted by an iron cap. Attached to it is the dwelling of the keeper, one story high, also of brick, and built by government. As we were going to spend the night in a light-house, we wished to make the most of so novel an experience, and therefore told our host that we would like to accompany him when he went to light up. At rather early candle-light he lighted a small Japan lamp, allowing it to smoke rather more than we like on ordinary occasions, and told us to follow him. He led the way first through his bedroom, which was placed nearest to the light-house, and then through a long, narrow, covered passage-way, between whitewashed walls like a prison entry, into the lower part of the light-house, where many great butts of oil were arranged around; thence we ascended by a winding and open iron stairway, with a steadily increasing scent of oil and lamp-smoke, to a trap-door in an iron floor, and through this into the lantern. It was a neat building, with everything in apple-pie order, and no danger of anything rusting there for want of oil. The light consisted of fifteen Argand lamps, placed within smooth concave reflectors twenty-one inches in diameter, and arranged in two horizontal circles one above the other, facing every way excepting directly down the Cape. These were surrounded, at a distance of two or three feet, by large plate-glass windows, which defied the storms, with iron sashes, on which rested the iron cap. All the iron work, except the floor, was painted white. And thus the light-house was completed. We walked slowly round in that narrow space as the keeper lighted each lamp in succession, conversing with him at the same moment that many a sailor on the deep witnessed the lighting of the Highland Light. His duty was to fill and trim and light his lamps, and keep bright the reflectors. He filled them every morning, and trimmed them commonly once in the course of the night. He complained of the quality of the oil which was furnished. This house consumes about eight hundred gallons in a year, which cost not far from one dollar a gallon; but perhaps a few lives would be saved if better oil were provided. Another light-house keeper said that the same proportion of winter-strained oil was sent to the southernmost light-house in the Union as to the most northern. Formerly, when this light-house had windows with small and thin panes, a severe storm would sometimes break the glass, and then they were obliged to put up a wooden shutter in haste to save their lights and reflectors, and sometimes in tempests, when the mariner stood most in need of their guidance, they had thus nearly converted the light-house into a dark lantern, which emitted only a few feeble rays, and those commonly on the land or lee side. He spoke of the anxiety and sense of responsibility which he felt in cold and stormy nights in the winter; when he knew that many a poor fellow was depending on him, and his lamps burned dimly, the oil being chilled. Sometimes he was obliged to warm the oil in a kettle in his house at midnight, and fill his lamps over again, for he could not have a fire in the light-house, it produced such a sweat on the windows. His successor told me that he could not keep too hot a fire in such a case. All this because the oil was poor. The government lighting the mariners on its wintry coast with summer-strained oil, to save expense! That were surely a summer-strained mercy….“
I hope that this brief introduction to his work may encourage you to find a copy of Thoreau’s “Cape Cod” and to read further. This is a truly important account, and a must if you are interested in the shipwrecks, lighthouses, life-saving and life as it existed for residents of outer Cape Cod in the mid-1800’s. We have this and other of Thoreau’s works available on our Cape Cod web page.
In April of 1946 historian and author Edward Rowe Snow began a similar hike around the “bended arm” of Cape Cod, as Thoreau called it, in an effort to trace, in as many cases as possible, Thoreau’s route and the locations where he stopped. Although others have attempted to duplicate Mr. Thoreau’s trek, I suspect that Mr. Snow is one of the very few who came close to duplicating the difficult walk through the deep sand of the outer beach. For portions of Snow’s account and for hours of wonderful reading, you will want to read one of his earlier books as well: “A Pilgrim Returns to Cape Cod” [Boston. 1946]. See this and others of Mr. Snow’s works, on our Edward Rowe Snow web page.
For more too, you may want to read our monthly column entitled Collecting Nautical Antiques in Lighthouse Digest Magazine.
Posted on January 31, 2012
We just got in some wonderful photos of Keeper Frank Schubert at the Coney Island Light Station. The crystal clear photos show Keeper Schubert, last civilian keeper at Coney Island Light Station. Keeper Schubert began his lighthouse career in 1938 aboard the buoy tender Tulip. He followed that with time at the offshore Old Orchard Lighthouse, and then was assigned to the Army Transportation Service during World War II. After the war, he served as the keeper of three lights at Governors Island. While stationed there, his wife, Marie, and their three children lived on Staten Island. In 1960, Schubert accepted an assignment to the Coney Island Light as his family would finally be able to live with him at the station to which he was assigned. When interviewed by New York Times reporter, Mrs. Shubert explained “We’ve gone from one extreme to another. We never used to see Frank. Now he never leaves home.” Keeper Shubert’s duties included tending the light and the 1,000-pound fog bell. When he could no longer see Hoffman and Swinburne Islands, he would turn the bell on. In an emergency, or if the power went out, Schubert said that the fog bell could be hit “with a sledgehammer.” Schubert’s wife passed away in the late 1980s. When the station was automated in 1989, he was allowed to stay on as a caretaker, continuing to climb the 87 steps to the lantern every day to perform required maintenance duties. During his years of service, Shubert was credited with saving the lives of fifteen sailors and was invited for a visit to the White House by President George H. W. Bush. He and his dog, Blazer, remained on duty until December 11 of 2003, when Schubert passed away at the age of 88 as the last of the Coast Guard’s civilian lighthouse keepers. His lighthouse career had lasted 65 years, including the final 43 years at Coney Island Lighthouse. "The Coast Guard mourns the loss of its most courageous sentry of the sea," said Capt. Craig T. Bone, commander of Coast Guard Activities New York. "His devotion to duty and courage are unequaled." Photo shown is from June 12, 1961. See our Recent Additions page for more.
Posted on January 28, 2012
Boxboro Paper Show, MA.
I just returned from Paper Town, the book and paper show held in Boxboro twice a year. (next Boxboro show will be in September) Came back with a few items including this great 1911 Life Saving Service article in Leslie's Illustrated Weekly (see our Recent Additions page), a Race Point Coast Guard photo and a WWII vintage Coast Guard hat in original box. I enjoy the shows, seeing the dealers and chatting about the state of the business, etc., but they aren't like they used to be. What was once three large rooms packed with an estimated 125-150 dealers, in the last few years the show is down to one room, half full - the aisles are now twice as wide as they once were. The down side is that the internet has surely cut into the show's sales, and I am sure many aren't spending what they once did on their hobbies. The up side may be that this is a good time to buy prices have come down some and more early pieces are coming to the market as people convert their attic accumulations to cash. This may be a great time to add to your collection.
There are book, paper, photo, etc. shows all across the country monthly - you may want to visit one in your area. The next good one in this area will be the Boston Book, Paper & Photo Exposition and Sale in Wilmington, Mass in May. Check out their web site.
If you would like to comment on our Blog, or suggest a subject I will look for your notes on Facebook or you can email me. I look forward to hearing your suggestions and comments.
Posted on January 26, 2012
Race Point Light Station, Provincetown, MA.
Race Point Light Station was leased to the American Lighthouse Foundation in 1995. Since then our organization has worked to restore the site - the keepers house has been repaired and modernized with heat, hot water, flush toilets, refrigeration, and a gas stove. Overnight stays were initiated in 1998.
One of our efforts has been to institute the use of renewal energy sources on the site. A solar electrical system was installed in October 2003, and a wind turbine generator up was added in 2007, making the use of a diesel generator unnecessary. The restored whistle house was opened to guests for week-long stays in 2008. This year solar hot water was added to heat the potable water, and to supplement the heat. Presently we are able to offer up to five rooms for rent, with shared kitchen and bath facilities in the two buildings. We hope eventually to expand the rental season beyond the current May - October with the addition of the solar hot water heating supplement. Race Point Lighthouse remains an active navigational guide maintained by the Coast Guard.
Race Point is a wonderful place for a brief visit or for a stay - enjoy the quiet surroundings, learn about the history of the Lighthouse Service and of the outer Cape, and see renewable energy in action. See the Race Point web site for more information on staying at the Race Point Light Station.
For more information on the history of the Race Point Light Station, check out our book HISTORIC CAPE COD LIGHTHOUSES: Race Point. A History of Cape Cod’s Lighthouse on Race Point. It is available for $8.95 here on our web site, or when you stay at the keeper's house at Race Point.
Check out also our Cape Cod Web Page for many more Cape Cod antiques and photos, books and more including this wonderful 42" panoramic photo of the Race Point Light Station.
Posted on January 25, 2012
When in Wellfleet, be sure to check out the old Cahoons [sic] Hollow Life Saving Station. This is one of only two remaining U.S. Life Saving Service stations once located on Cape Cod's outer beach. The second remaining station, Old Harbor in Chatham, now resides in Provincetown at Race Point Beach, part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The thirteen Cape Cod stations included Wood End, Race Point, Peaked Hill Bar, High Head, Highland, Pamet River, Cahoons Hollow, Nauset, Orleans, Old Harbor, Chatham, Monomoy, and Monomoy Point. On our U.S. Life Saving Service page we have hundreds of photos and antiques from these and other U.S. Life Saving stations. This service had an unprecedented record, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and vessels in its short forty five year span.
In 1915, the U.S. Life Saving Service was combined with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard, which has continued the fine record of rescues, professionalism, sacrifice and service.
The Cahoons Hollow station, now the Beachcomber restaurant, has been a must-visit Summer destination for surfers, families, beach-goers and music lovers for more than 50 years! Stop by for their live music, cool cocktails, fantastic food, all right on the wide sandy beach. The stunning scenery creates an oasis here in Wellfleet. They are located at 1120 Cahoon Hollow Road. Visit their web site at http://www.thebeachcomber.com/
Posted on January 24, 2012
One of my favorite places in Massachusetts is Cape Cod - particularly the outer Cape. The area boasts a maritime history hardly rivaled elsewhere, and the serene surroundings, particularly at this time of the year, are well worth the trip.
For a wonderful view from Coast Guard beach, at the old Coast Guard station, the Web Cam below is worth a look....
We just got in a rare grouping of photos of the crews from this station taken in 1939 which we are offering on our Recent Items page. One of them is shown below - great detail. Station photos are more common (if I dare use that word), but we rarely find photos of the crews in action. A great group.
In addition, we picked up another grouping, of the Mayo's Beach Lighthouse, and of the Marconi Station, both in neighboring Wellfleet. The keeper's house shown in the photo can still be seen at Mayo's Beach, on Wellfleet Harbor. While in the area, check our the bookstore in the restaurant across the street. (Bookstore & Restaurant, 50 Kendrick Avenue)
More items added daily.
to order items: 1. I suggest that you call us
or email to check on availability of any item that you would like
other than recent books. As items go quite quickly, please call and leave
a message to reserve items that you would like. I will return your call,
hold the items and await your letter or credit card information. We will
also weigh the items and advise postage. 2. You may then call or email credit card information, or
forward a check in the mail. Most items are mailed US Priority Mail or UPS. Additional
information on our "Ordering Page".
Procedure to order items:
1. I suggest that you call us or email to check on availability of any item that you would like other than recent books. As items go quite quickly, please call and leave a message to reserve items that you would like. I will return your call, hold the items and await your letter or credit card information. We will also weigh the items and advise postage.
2. You may then call or email credit card information, or forward a check in the mail.
Most items are mailed US Priority Mail or UPS. Additional
information on our "Ordering Page".
Page updated July 22, 2016 .
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James W. Claflin . 07/22/2016
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