Monday, September 26, 2011

News from 1838: Slave Traders & The American Diver

Consecutive features in the Army & Navy Chronicle of 1838:

SLAVE TRADE.—Her Britannic Majesty's ship Snake captured on the 23d Nov. the Portuguese brig Arraganta, from Gallinas, with 330 slaves; she had lost 140 during her passage, from dysentery. The prize was taken to Montego Bay. The British brig Sapo took off the east end of Jamaica, in the early part of December, a Spanish schooner with 260 Africans on board, and carried her into Port Royal. The British schooner Ringdove [pictured above] arrived at Kingston on the 21st, having taken off Mantanzas, Spanish brigs La Vincedora and Vigilante, with Bogal [in present-day Senegal] negroes on board, and sent them into Havana and Matanzas, where they were given up to the Governor.
EXTRAORDINARY LEAP FROM A SHIP'S MAST —Upward of 100,000 persons lately assembled at the Waterloo Dock at Liverpool, to witness an extraordinary feat by a man named Samuel Scott*, a native of Philadelphia. For a considerable time before the event took place, bets run high, and much doubt and speculation were abroad, the affair being considered a hoax practised by the publicans, to get together a crowd of persons in the neighborhood. At twelve o'clock however, the hero, for so indeed he was, ascended the rigging, and amidst the shouts and cheers of thousands, plunged head foremost into the basin from a height of 193 feet. At half past two he announced another leap which was accomplished without accident. A considerable sum of money was collected among the spectators.

*Samuel Scott (b. 1818) gained renown as "the American diver." His last feat was a dive off London's Waterloo Bridge in 1841, during which he was literally hung by his own noose in front of an incredulous crowd. Then he was known as "the unfortunate American diver," per caption below.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A "Pretty Little" Lost Lighthouse Ballad

In the course of doing research for our forthcoming California & Hawaii lighthouses map, we delved into an engaging and informative book: Ancient and Modern Light-houses, by Major David Porter Heap, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, published in 1889 by Ticknor & Co., Boston.

Appendix C contains the following, which should be of interest to folksong enthusiasts and fans of New Jersey's "Old Barney" (left, by Peter M. Mason, from Mid-Atlantic Lighthouses Illustrated Map & Guide).
Researches as to the origin of words and names have great interest for the philologist, so I append a ballad giving an ingenious explanation how Barnegat Light-house came to be so named, Si non e vero ben trovato.*

Air—"The Pretty Little Rat-Catcher's Daughter."**

In the Bay of Barnegat sailed a jolly, jolly tar,
And he watched like a cat o'er the water,
Till he spied from the main-top-gallant-forward-mlzzen spar
The pretty little light-keeper's daughter.

Then he landed on the land, did this jolly, jolly tar,
And he chased her o'er the sand till he caught her.
Says he, "My pretty miss, I've got to have a kiss
From the pretty little light-keeper's daughter."

But she squealed a little squeal at the jolly, jolly tar,
And said she didn't feel as if she'd ought to;
Then she scooted up the bar and hollered for her ma, —
Oh, the pretty little light-keeper's daughter!

"Sure my name is Barney Flynn," said the jolly, jolly tar,
"And at drinking Holland gin I'm a snorter."
Then a tub of washing-blue—soap suddenly she threw —
Did the mother of the light-keeper's daughter.

"Now, Barney, git!" she spat, at the jolly, jolly tar;
And you bet that Barney gat for the water.
Thus the place from near and far was named by the ma
Of the pretty little light-keeper's daughter.

— Adam Clark.
*Translation: If it's not true, it's a good story.
**See an animated snippet of the original Cockney "air" here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Live & In Person!

Our Publisher and Mostly Silent Partner will venture out from Bella Terra Publishing World HQ to make rare public appearances next weekend. Please come and say hello.

Saturday, Sept. 24.
[CANCELED due to endless rain]
Lighthouse Day
Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2-4pm
U. S. Lighthouses Map
Launch Party

Celebrate our Magnum Opus, the United States Lighthouses Illustrated Map & Guide--9 months and buckets of blood, sweat and tea in the making.

At 2:30 Our Publisher will give a presentation on U.S. lighthouse history and mapmaking, followed by a reception. The map and original watercolor prints of Rondout Creek Light, Kingston NY (featured on map; see below), and Stony Point Light (top) by Diana Hertz will be available for sale.

Location: Beacon Institute Gallery, 199 Main Street, Beacon NY.
Event page with directions.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lighthouse Traveling Libraries

From the February 1885 issue of The Library Journal (still in print, minus The):
From the Christian Union.

Out of our seven hundred and fifty-five lighthouses and twenty-two lightships, fully one-third have each a library of about fifty volumes. The case for the books is so arranged that it "has a double debt to pay." Let it be shut, locked, and laid on its back, and it is a brassbound packing-case, with hinged handles by which it may be lifted ; stand it on a table and open its doors, and it becomes a neat little bookcase, two shelves high, each twenty-one inches long, one adapted to hold ten octavos of the size of a bound volume of the "Century," and the other the right height for holding good-sized twelvemos. As a matter of fact many of these cases contain on the lower shelf ten volumes of bound magazines, and on the upper a judicious selection of biography, history, popular science, and good novels—from twenty-five to thirty volumes, according to thickness. A little space above the second shelf, about an inch and a half high, is utilized on one side by a copy of the New Testament, with Psalms, the octavo pica edition of the Bible Society, and on the other by the octavo edition of the Prayer Book, with hymnal attached, published by the Protestant Episcopal Publishing Society, but now out of print, as the Lighthouse Establishment took up the remainder of the edition.

Each book-case has two doors, opening outward. On the inside of the left-hand door is a manuscript catalogue of the name and number of each book. On the right-hand door is tacked a blank form, properly headed, on which is entered the name of each lighthouse to which the library was sent, together with the date of its arrival and its departure. Among the smaller books is a little blankbook. In this, when a library reaches a station, the name of each reader is entered at the top of a page, and under his name is entered the title of each book he takes out, and the date it is taken and returned. The case is examined by the Lighthouse Inspector on his quarterly round, and its condition is reported. Any reader who loses or injures a book is required to replace it, if possible, in kind, and it is one of the rules that the books shall not be lent from the stations, so that none but actual residents of lighthouses and lightships, the keepers and their families, shall have the use of them.

It is the policy of the Lighthouse Establishment to put a library into every lightship, lighthouse tender, and isolated lighthouse, and to supply the latter in the order of their respective phases of isolation, the work going on simultaneously in each of the fifteen Lighthouse Districts. There are now about 380 such libraries in use, and as each lighthouse has an average of five readers, it can be readily seen how many people are affected.

The coasts of the Atlantic, Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, and the Great Rivers are divided, as before said, into fifteen Lighthouse Districts. Over each district an inspector is placed, who is an experienced officer of the navy. As such, he is responsible for the maintenance of all those aids to navigation in it, and for the discipline of its personnel, including the light-keepers. He visits every light-station quarterly, makes a formal inspection and report as to its condition, and pays each keeper. To care for the buoys and inspect the lighthouses he has a steam tender of some 300 tons. When he visits a lighthouse that has a library he takes it away and replaces it with the one on the tender. Thus each library changes its station quarterly, and four libraries find their way to each station in the course of a year. Among the more than 150 light-stations in one district, about one-third are entitled to the use of libraries, and about fifty book-cases are working their way around among them, and will, in the course of twelve years or so, visit each of these stations. When a library has spent three months at each station in a district it is transferred to the next district. So, under this plan, it is possible that a library may start from the light-station at Eastport, Me., and work its way clear round the coast, stopping at every large lighthouse in every Atlantic and Gulf State to the Mexican frontier; then, after visiting every large lighthouse on the Lakes, finally makes a tour of the lights on the Pacific coast. So the problem is presented, How long will it take for 380 libraries to spend three months each at 4oo different lighthouses?

This system of peripatetic libraries is a growth rather than a creation. One of the lighthouse officers, seeing the avidity with which light-keepers seized on any reading matter that came in their way, sent to individual keepers such spare books and odd magazines as he himself had, and then he pillaged the shelves of his friends for the same purpose. Finally the Lighthouse Board, which had no funds under its control from which it could buy books, found that book-cases could be properly paid for as furniture, and twenty-five of the pattern now used were supplied, it being understood that the books to fill them were to be provided by private funds. Then a systematic raid was made through the press, on everyone within reach, for books, odd numbers of magazines, and paper-covered novels, it having been found that they could be bound at the Government bindery. The friends of seamen responded readily, especially as the Lighthouse Establishment paid the expressage on packages of reading matter received. All was fish which came into the net, and the first twenty-five cases were filled with a mixture of theology, science, mathematics, novels, and odd magazines, and each case was sent to a lighthouse as soon as it was filled.

After awhile the aid of Congress was invoked, as it was found that light-keepers were made more contented and better satisfied with their lot by having reading matter supplied them ; and so it has come to pass that now, each year, the words, "books for light-keepers' reading " find their place among the "oil, wicks, chimneys," and other lighthouse supplies in the Sundry Civil Appropriation Act, which provides for the purpose some $300,000 en bloc, and though no amount is specifically named for books, it is understood that not more than $1000 per year is to be spent for them from this appropriation, and not that much unless it can be spared after every other requisite has been supplied.

Of course no such sum as this would have bought the 19,000 volumes and more now distributed among the lighthouses of the country, if retail prices had been paid for them. The fact is, the officer having charge of the matter made the money go so far that it almost seems as if he had plundered the trade, as he previously had the dear public. Joking aside, he not only was permitted to buy at the lowest rates given the trade itself, but he received large donations of rubbed and unsalable copies of good books in strong, though defaced, binding. These blemishes were hidden by the stout brown paper covers with which all the books were invested.

The earlier filled cases, which contained a mixture of matter, much of which was naturally unattractive to the average light-keeper, have since been somewhat winnowed. Fresh books have been sent the inspectors, with orders to put them into certain cases, in place of books specified by name and number, and to present the books taken out to certain light-keepers. Then, too, when a book is disabled for active use by frequent reading, the inspector may condemn it, and put in its place a volume from the reserve stock sent him for that purpose.

The Lighthouse Board, which has its headquarters at Washington, keeps a watchful eye on these libraries. It has a list of the books in every case, and it keeps up with the changes in their catalogues. It knows at what lighthouse each library is placed, how long it stays, when it got there, when it left, and the condition of its contents when it was taken away. The Board also knows how many times each book is taken out, where, when, and by whom, and how long it was kept out.

The average light keeper is on a plane, as to taste, education, and culture, with the average mechanic. The books provided for him are not always the best for the purpose, but they are the best that could be had under the circumstances, and the Lighthouse Board is to be congratulated on the success it has attained, not only in obtaining books, but in getting light-keepers who will read them.
For more information, including lists of some of the titles in the traveling libraries, see Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Milwaukee County Historical Society (photo above right) and Wisconsin Library Heritage Center.

Lighthouse Establishment bookplate (left: Carysfort Reef FL; right: Minot's Ledge MA).

Monday, September 5, 2011

Civil War Lighthouse Report

Lighthouses were key to protecting and controlling shipping, hence they were of vital strategic importance in the Civil War. Confederates dismantled or sabotaged many lighthouses to keep them out of Union hands, with varying success.

Per the 1863 Journal of the Franklin Institute: "this wicked rebellion has extinguished 125 lights [out of 556], many of them of the highest importance."

Below are some noteworthy excerpts from a "report of the operations and condition of the light-house establishment for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1863" submitted to the Secretary of the Treasury:
In the fifth light-house district, embracing the coasts from Metomkin inlet, Virginia, to New River inlet, North Carolina, including Chesapeake bay and tributaries, Albemarle and Pamplico sounds, circumstances have not permitted the board to make many improvements...

The new illuminating apparatus ordered for Cape Hatteras main light, combining the latest and highest improvements, has been placed in its position

The light-houses at Roanoke marshes, northwest point of Royal Shoal, Croatan, Cape Lookout, and Ocracoke [NC] have been refitted and the lights re-exhibited.

The light-house at Wade's Point [NC] was also re-established, but early in May last it was visited by a guerilla force from the main land and again destroyed....

The light-houses at Craney Island shoal, Back river, and Cape Henry [VA] have been repaired, renovated, and refitted, and are now in operation, the important light at Cape Henry being protected from the enemy by a military guard detailed by the general commanding at Fortress Monroe....

A new fog-bell, frame, and machinery has been placed at Old Point Comfort light-house, and extensive general repairs made at that station....

The light-vessels in this district have received careful attention, and with but one or two exceptions have remained securely at their stations. The light-vessel built under contract for Frying Pan shoals, off Cape Fear, North Carolina, has been sent to her station, but the lights have not been exhibited in compliance with the wishes of the naval authorities....

In the sixth light-house district, embracing the coasts from New River inlet, North Carolina, to Cape Canaveral light-house, Florida, inclusive, the same reason which called for a brief summary of operations in the last annual report still exists, i.e., the slow recovery of the territory by the United States military forces.

Congress, at its last session, having made an appropriation for the establishment of range lights to facilitate the entrance into Port Royal harbor, early measures were adopted to secure the designed end. The necessary preliminary examinations were made, the plans and estimates of the engineer approved, and the construction of the buildings completed at Portland, Maine.

When ready they were sent out to Port Royal and put up. These ranges consist of two lights on Hilton Head island, one light on Bay Point, and a light-vessel anchored on Fishing Rip. Through the courtesy of the general commanding the United States forces at Port Royal, the necessary details of soldiers were made to assist in opening a vista through the woods for the inner range on Hilton Head, and by the kindness of the admiral commanding the South Atlantic Gulf squadron, a suitable vessel for Fishing Rip was placed at the disposal of the board. These lights have been completed and lighted, to the great benefit of the increasing commerce seeking that port.

Early in the year a competent engineer was sent to this district to make, as far as possible, a detailed examination into the condition of the light-houses, &c., on this coast, and the damage done by the enemy thereto. He performed the duty confided to him with marked promptitude and ability, and his report conveys the intelligence that the following named lights have been more or less completely destroyed:
  • St. Helena sound [SC] light-house, blown up.
  • Hunting Island [SC], undermined and thrown down.
  • Combahee Bank [SC] light-vessel, removed and burnt.
  • St. Simon's Island [GA] light-house, blown up.
  • Wolf Island [GA] beacons, blown up.
He reported the almost total destruction or removal of the buoys by the enemy, and a large number of suitable sizes and kinds, with the necessary accessories, was promptly forwarded from the buoy depots of the north. Upon their arrival at Port Royal [SC; captured in 1861] they were, as far as required, placed in position under the direction of the officers of the Coast Survey on duty on that station.

In addition to the light-vessel for Fishing Rip [Port Royal Sound, SC], placed at the service of the board, the kindness of Admiral DuPont secured the services of a small schooner, a prize to the naval forces, as a tender for the district. She has been officered, manned, and placed in commission, and has proved of the greatest possible assistance in the performance of various works in the district, such as buoyage, transporting materials, supplies, &c.

The seventh light-house district embraces the coast of Florida from St. Augustine to Egmont key. The lights in this district have been maintained in useful operation.

Cape Florida light has not been re-exhibited. The necessary materials for its repair, and a suitable illuminating apparatus to replace the one destroyed by the enemy, have been provided and stored at Key West, so that the work may be prosecuted to early completion whenever it may be found safe and prudent to do so.

The eighth and ninth light-house districts have received the especial attention of the board, and in view of the many serious difficulties to be overcome in the re-establishment of the various aids to navigation, it has reason to congratulate itself upon having accomplished so much.

The important light at Pensacola has been repaired and re-exhibited, showing temporarily a fourth order, instead of the first order lens, which is allotted to that station, and the placing of which is not deemed advisable until the occupancy of a greater portion of the surrounding country by the United States forces shall have placed the station beyond risk of damage and spoliation.

Extensive repairs to the light-house at Ship island [MS] (whose re-establishment was stated in the last annual report) have been made, and further needful renovations are in progress.

The screw-pile structure at Merrill's Shell Bank [Pass Marianne, LA] was found in measurably good condition. A new illuminating apparatus was provided, the necessary repairs made, and the light re-exhibited.

Pleasanton's island [LA] light-house has been repaired, refitted temporarily, and the light exhibited.
West Rigolets light-house [LA] has been repaired temporarily, and the light reestablished.

The light-houses at Port Pontchartrain, Bayou St. John, and New Canal [LA] have been refitted and the lights put into operation.

Pass à 1'Outre [LA] light-house has been thoroughly repaired, a new keeper's dwelling erected, and the light exhibited.

The old light-house at the head of the Passes [LA] was burned at the commencement of the rebellion. A new structure has been erected, and the light shown.

South Pass and Southwest Pass lights [LA] have been renovated, extensive repairs being made to the latter, and the lights re-exhibited.
Illustration: Price's Creek, NC, lighthouse ruin by Gerald C. Hill, from Southeast Lighthouses Illustrated Map & Guide.

Friday, September 2, 2011

All in a Day's Work for the Lighthouse Service

A hurricane hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Sept. 2 & 3, 1913.

With the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene fresh in our minds, below are some noteworthy excerpts from the Lighthouse Service Annual Report of 1914.

Illustration: Ocracoke Island Light by Gerald C. Hill, from Southeast Lighthouses Illustrated Map & Guide.


Vessel or employee rendering service.

Nature of assistance.

Tillman F. Smith, keeper, Washington, N.C., lighthouse depot.

Saved buoys from going adrift from lighthouse depot in storm.

Daniel T. Paul, laborer in charge, Rumley Marsh Light, N.C.

Recovered lighthouse property after a storm.

Robert H. Bertram, master, Light Vessel No. 80.

Kept light displayed on light vessel with proper characteristics during storm.

Mumford Guynn, keeper, and James O. Casey, assistant keeper, Pamlico Point Light Station, N,C.


Wesley Austin, keeper, Ocracoke Light Station, N.C.

Saved the Government property in his charge and gave shelter to the residents of Ocracoke Island during storm.

John T. Shipp, keeper, and Thomas Quidley, assistant keeper, Neuse River Light Station, N.C.

Saved the Government property in their charge during storm.

Alexander T. Loss, mate, and crew of Light Vessel No. 71. [Stationed at hazardous Diamond Shoal, off Cape Hatteras, torpedoed by a German submarine in 1918.]

Kept light vessel near her station during storm.

Herbert R. Brownley, first officer, tender Juniper.

Rendered assistance to 3 men on board the power boat which had become disabled near Beaufort Inlet, N.C.

Tender Maple, Thomas J. Miles, commanding.

Took wrecked schooner in tow and beached her on Cedar Point, Md.

Randolph Scarborough, master, Light Vessel No. 80 and crew.

Efficient service in handling light vessel and quickly returning her to station after she had parted moorings in hurricane.