Lighthouse Facts | US Lighthouse Society (2023)

The first known lighthouseIt was the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt. Ptolemy I and his son Ptolemy II built it between 300 and 280 BC. It was about 450 feet tall. This lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Gradually destroyed by invaders and earthquakes, it was destroyed in the 14th century.

The oldest existing lighthouse in the world.La Coruña in Spain is considered, dating from approx. 20 BC On the cliffs of Dover in Britain is a Roman lighthouse built in AD 40.

America's first lighthousehe was in Boston on Little Brewster Island (1716). The first watchman was George Worthylake, who drowned along with his wife and daughter when he was returning to the island in 1718. The original tower was destroyed by the British and finally rebuilt in 1784.

The oldest existing lighthouse in America(never rebuilt) is Sandy Hook, NJ (1764) which is still in operation.Part of the construction of the lighthouse was paid for by the sale of lottery tickets and shipping interestNYpaid rest.

First lighthouse built entirely by the federal governmentwar 1797 Montauk Point, New York.

newer coastal lighthouseSullivan's Island in Charleston, South Carolina, 1962.

The first lighthouses on the Great Lakes were Buffalo (Main) and Erie, PA (1818)

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First lighthouse built by the United States government: Cape Henry Light, Virginia, completed in 1792.

The only triangular lighthouseSullivan's Island in Charleston, South Carolina.

The only lighthouse with an elevatorSullivan's Island in Charleston, South Carolina.

The number of lighthouses when we became a nation in 1776guerra 12

the tallest lighthouseis Cape Hatteras, NC (196 feet built in 1872).

First American-built lighthouse on the West CoastIt was Alcatraz Island, 1854.

The oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes is the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse (1808) on the Toronto Islands, Toronto, Canada.

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First Lighthouse Completed Under the United States Government: Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, was completed in 1791, making it the first lighthouse completed by the new federal government. However, the construction of the lighthouse had been started by the state of Massachusetts by order of Governor John Hancock. At the time, Maine was part of Massachusetts.

How was the country divided?After 1852 the country was divided into districts; originally eight, they eventually grew to 19. Today the Coast Guard has only ten districts. The United States Light-House Establishment had a District Inspector (naval officer) in charge of operations. He ran the district together with an army officer in charge of engineering projects. In 1910 civilians began to replace the military.

What was the total number of lighthouses in America?There have never been more than 850 lighthouses in operation at one time, although about 1,500 have been built in this country over the years; the heyday was around 1910. 267 have been built on the shores of the US Great Lakes. Michigan had the most with around 140, followed by Maine with around 80.

State with the most lighthouses: Michigan with 124. (Depending on definitions, the number can be as high as 130.)

Where were lightships used?Lightships were used when the water was too deep to build a lighthouse or it was impractical. The first lightships were in the lower Chesapeake Bay (1820) and most stations were by 1915 when 72 lightships manned 55 stations. The additional boats were used for relief. Lightships displayed lights on top of their masts and blew a bell or other fog signal such as a whistle, siren, or horn in foggy areas. In 1921, lightships were equipped with radio beacons. The last lightship was removed from the Nantucket station in 1984.

Did the goalies wear uniforms?The uniforms were not introduced into service until 1884.

What is a daymark?Rooks have special (painted) patterns (diamond shapes, spirals, stripes, etc.) or colors to distinguish them from one another. These patterns were called daymarks.

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Did the women serve in the lighthouses?Lighthouse keeper was one of the first United States government positions available to women in the 19th century.

The most expensive lighthouse built in Americait is St. George Reef, off Crescent City, CA. It took him ten years (1882-1892) to build and it cost $715,000.00. The Coast Guard abandoned it in 1972.

The lighthouse service was established in Act IX of the First Congress. Over the years, the lighthouses were placed under the direction of the Treasury (this ministry was dissolved in 1820), the Treasury (until 1903), Commerce and Transportation. The Lighthouse Board (of the US Lighthouse Establishment) was influential from 1852 until July 1, 1910, when Commerce established the Bureau of Lighthouses. The Coast Guard took over on July 7, 1939. The Lighthouse Board divided the country into districts in 1852: initially there were 8 and then 19. Today the Coast Guard has only 10 districts.

The light source is called "optics".(either electric or oil); the increase in light is caused by the "lens". This is located in the "lantern" of the tower and the glazing (windows) are called storm panes.

The first sign of fog in this countryit was in the boston lighthouse, and it was a cannon. Other fog signals included whistles, sirens, reed trumpets, bells, diaphone horns (BEEEEooooh), and membrane horns (brrrrrrrrr).

The first American lighthouse to use electricity.It was the Statue of Liberty in 1886.

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The most powerful lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere is the Sullivan Island Light in Charleston, South Carolina. It was originally 28 million candlepower (candle intensity), but the light was too bright and the output was reduced to 1.2 million candlepower. It was still visible for more than 26 nmi (48 km; 30 mi).

What are headlights made of?Lighthouses are made of wood, granite, brick, sandstone, steel, cast iron, and reinforced concrete. One has an outer skin made of aluminum.

Lighthouse depots were built across the country to service the lighthouses. All supplies were shipped to the lighthouse depots from where supplies were shipped to the various lighthouses. The largest lighthouse depot was in Staten Island, New York. The Staten Island location also had manufacturing plants that made many lighthouse items such as oil cans, boxes, windows, household items, and just about anything else that could be made cheaper than it could be bought. In addition, experiments were carried out with new types of lighting devices and construction materials for the towers.

What are the characteristics of the lighthouse?The reflector system and the Fresnel system used fixed (constant light) or rotating (intermittent) systems. The type of signal is called a characteristic. Other features include hide, group flash, quick flash, and equal interval. Some headlights show a green or red light and some show a white light with a green or red sector created by replacing a clear "window" with a colored "window".

How many keepers were there in a lighthouse?One to five guards manned the light stations.

Were there female porters?There were many lighthouse keepers (the society has files on 80), but most were given their positions when their husbands died or became incapacitated.

What did the guardians receive as salary?The guards received lower-middle-class salaries. George Worthylake, the first, earned £50 ($250) a year. By today's standards, that would be the equivalent of $16,000. During the 19th century, principal conductors were paid between $250 and $600; others were paid less. The exception to this was in the west, where guards were paid $1,000 during the gold rush.

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What is the range of the light of the headlight?The more powerful optics produce light that can be seen 25 miles out to sea, although planes have reported "catching" light at 40 or 50 miles due to reflections from clouds.

What is the only manned lighthouse in America?All lighthouses in the United States are automated, but since the Boston Light is the oldest station in the United States, Congress has declared that this lighthouse must always be a manned station. Boston Light is the only official lighthouse with a keeper. However, there are many other Light Stations in the United States where people live, although they are not Guardians. It is the Coast Guard families who live in the homes of the former caretakers or the caretakers who live there to maintain the property and protect it from vandalism.


Were there any female lighthouse keepers? ›

American women have tended lighthouses since colonial times. Hannah Thomas became the United States' first woman lighthouse keeper in 1776 after taking over the duties of her husband, John, during his service in the Revolutionary War.

What is causing the lighthouse keeper to go insane? ›

Modern scholars have wondered if mercury, not isolation, was behind reports of lighthouse keepers behaving erratically or losing sanity, since chronic mercury poisoning causes confusion, depression, and hallucinations.

What is the oldest lighthouse still standing? ›

The oldest existing lighthouse in the world is considered to be La Coruna in Spain that dates from ca. 20 B.C. A Roman lighthouse is located on the Cliffs of Dover in the UK that was constructed in 40 A.D. The first lighthouse in America was at Boston on Little Brewster Island (1716).

What was the first lighthouse? ›

The first known lighthouse was the Pharos of Alexandria, Egypt. Ptolemy I and his son Ptolemy II constructed it between 300 and 280 B.C. It stood about 450 feet high. This lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Who was the last lighthouse keeper? ›

The last civilian keeper in the United States, Frank Schubert, died in 2003. The last officially manned lighthouse, Boston Light, was manned by the Coast Guard until 1998. It now has volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary "keepers" whose primary role is to serve as interpretive tour guides for visitors.

What are lighthouse keeper names? ›

Wickie: A nickname given to lighthouse keepers, derived from the task of trimming the wick of the lamps.

What do lighthouse keepers eat? ›

Eggers pointed out that actual lighthouse keepers—or "wickies," in the parlance of the time—would have likely been eating more varied meals. “The Lighthouse Keepers' Manual gives them 200 pounds of pork, 100 pounds of beef, and also some rice and beans or peas,” he said.

Who were the three missing lighthouse keepers? ›

On 15 December 1900, lighthouse keepers James Ducat, Thomas Marshall and Donald McArthur noted the last entries on the slate at Flannan Isle Lighthouse. Shortly afterwards, they disappeared and were never seen again.

What drink did they make in the lighthouse? ›

The Turpentine & Honey cocktail is a milk and honey style drink that utilizes whiskey, honey, and milk. I chose this drink because in The Lighthouse, Pattinson and Defoe eventually run out of alcohol and must create a concoction to get them drunk. This ends up being a potent blend of turpentine and honey.

Which US state has the most lighthouses? ›

With more than 115 lighthouses along the Great Lakes, Michigan boasts the most lighthouses of any U.S. state.

Where is the smallest lighthouse in the United States? ›

Smallest Lighthouse – Pocahontas Light on Echo Point, Great Diamond Island, in Casco Bay off Portland, is the smallest lighthouse registered with the U.S. Coast Guard, standing only six feet tall.

Where are the 3 black lighthouses? ›

It is one of three black lighthouses in the world, and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.
Queenscliff High Light.
LocationPort Phillip Victoria Australia
Coordinates38°16′17.6″S 144°39′42.6″E
Constructed1843 (first)
Constructionbluestone tower
14 more rows

How many lighthouses are in the USA? ›

This is the most up-to-date & comprehensive U.S. lighthouse directory. It includes all 779 standing lighthouse in all 50 states located on detailed regional maps—including Lake Havasu, AZ/CA.

What is the 2nd oldest lighthouse in America? ›

Brant Point Light is the second lighthouse established in colonial America. It was established in 1746. It is located only 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, on Nantucket. It has been moved and rebuilt more times than any other lighthouse in the Nation.

Why is it called a lighthouse? ›

Lighthouse is a combination of the words 'light', from the Proto-Indo-European root 'leuk' meaning 'brightness', and 'house', from the Proto-Germanic 'husan' meaning 'dwelling'. As it refers to a structure built on rock near the sea used in ship navigation, the word lighthouse in English dates back to the 1620s.

Who was the first female lighthouse keeper? ›

Ida Lewis, the namesake of Arlington National Cemetery's Lewis Drive, was once known as “the bravest woman in America.” Lewis served as an official lighthouse keeper for the U.S. Lighthouse Service (later absorbed into the Coast Guard) from 1879 until her death, at age 69, in 1911.

Do people still live in lighthouses? ›

For hundreds of years, lighthouses have guided sailors safely around hazards and into harbors. Although many became obsolete with the arrival of the GPS and other navigational tools, some lighthouses have found new life as private homes.

What did lighthouse keepers wear? ›

The lighthouse keeper wore a double-breasted sack coat, vest and trousers of navy-blue cloth in winter, or navy-blue serge or flannel in summer. The coat had five large regulation triple gilt buttons on each side, all placed exact to regulation; two inside breast pockets and two outside hip pockets.

How do lighthouses make money? ›

The service provided by Trinity House is financed from 'Light Dues' levied on commercial vessels calling at ports in the British Isles, based on the net registered tonnage of the vessel.

How long did lighthouse keepers stay? ›

Duty Periods

At most offshore lighthouses reliefs were carried out every two weeks, weather permitting. Each keeper in turn was relieved (replaced) by another keeper, so each individual keeper was on duty for six weeks, followed by two weeks off.

What kind of life did a lighthouse keeper live? ›

Keepers lived at the lighthouse and were at work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They could not call in sick and rarely took a day off. Lighthouse Keepers had to light the tower's lamp every night and make sure that the lamp stayed lit until the sun rose the next day.

How do lighthouses not fall? ›

Located offshore on exposed rocks, 19th Century lighthouses were built with large interlocked granite blocks and have survived weathering for nearly two centuries. Under extreme wave impacts, lighthouses of this structural typology may uplift and rock, whereas sliding is prevented by the vertical interlocking.

How thick are lighthouse walls? ›

The walls are five feet thick at the base and taper to two feet at the top. Areas of the tower where the iron-work is attached were built using a double-wall construction technique to create air-pockets. This construction method protects the iron-work from the oxidizing effects of the salt air.

How much did lighthouse keepers make in the 1800s? ›

During the day, there were constant chores, cleaning, repairs, and daily life tasks to accomplish, and maybe a nap to rest for the evening watch. Typically making between $800-$1,000, lighthouse keepers were hired and employed by the U.S. Government.

How much of the vanishing is true? ›

The film is based on a true story of the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers on Flannan Island off the coast of Scotland. In the year 1900, the three men were a routine call of duty to operate the lighthouse. But all three disappeared and were never seen again. Investigations turned up no evidence of foul play.

Did lighthouse keepers suffer from mercury poisoning? ›

Abstract. It is common practice for lighthouses with large Fresnel lenses to use mercury baths as a low-friction rotation mechanism. Some recent acute mercury poisonings and incidents of abnormal behavior in lighthouse keepers have drawn attention to the potential for chronic mercury poisoning in these workplaces.

Who discovered the mystery of the lighthouse keepers? ›

Arriving on the island on December 29, the board's superintendent, Robert Muirhead, began an investigation into the keepers' disappearance. Muirhead knew all three of the missing men well. Examining the oilskin that had been left behind, he concluded it belonged to William MacArthur.

What did the ending of The Lighthouse mean? ›

Winslow couldn't distinguish between love and violence and ultimately killed the real Winslow out of fear of his sexual desire. Out of guilt or remorse, Winslow took the dead man's name to be reminded of his cruel actions toward someone he wanted to be with each time someone addresses him.

What does monkey pump mean in The Lighthouse? ›

“Monkey pump” is not a phrase you hear often in the movies, or anywhere else — and with good reason. It is historical nautical slang for a straw inserted through a gimlet-hole into a cask of liquor for taking surreptitious sips of the contents.

Did they drink gasoline in The Lighthouse? ›

Pattinson also embraced his character's drinking habit. In the film, the two characters are often seen getting drunk on kerosene. Pattinson told Esquire that he got so drunk to play these scenes that he essentially blacked out.

What is the brightest lighthouse in the US? ›

The Charleston Lighthouse, also known as the Sullivan's Island Lighthouse in South Carolina is the brightest in the United States.

Who runs lighthouses in America? ›

Lighthouse keepers became civil service employees in 1896. The care of the nation's lighthouses moved from agency to agency until 1910, when Congress created the Bureau of Lighthouses. The U.S. Coast Guard took over responsibility in 1939. A keeper's job was not quite a 24-hour job, but it could be.

Where is the oldest lighthouse in the United States? ›

The Oldest Lighthouse in the United States Just Celebrated 300 Years of Service. About 10 miles offshore from Boston on a tiny rocky island sits the Boston Light.

What lighthouse has black diamonds? ›

Distinctive for its black and white diamond pattern, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is the southernmost lighthouse that guards the Outer Banks, and is easily one of the most visited attractions on the refreshingly desolate Cape Lookout National Seashore.

What is the newest lighthouse in the United States? ›

The newest lighthouse in the U.S. is the Sullivan's Island Lighthouse, which was first lit in 1962 and sits at the entrance of Charleston Harbor on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina.

What lighthouse was in Forrest Gump? ›

The lighthouse has featured in many commercial photo shoots and in the movie Forest Gump featuring Tom Hanks, whose character concluded his cross-country run on the runway of Marshall Point Lighthouse. In the museum, visitors will find documentation on the filming of the movie.

Where is the most remote lighthouse? ›

The most remote lighthouse in a lake is the Stannard Rock Lighthouse (47.2° N, -87.2° W) in Lake Superior, Michigan, USA, which lies approximately 39 kilometres (24 miles) from the nearest land – Keweenaw Point – and around 70 kilometres (44 miles) away from the nearest city, Marquette.

Where is the most remote lighthouse in the world? ›

Þrídrangaviti Lighthouse (transliterated as Thridrangaviti) is a lighthouse 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometres) off the southwest coast of Iceland, in the archipelago of Vestmannaeyjar, often described as the most isolated lighthouse in the world.

What are the 2 types of lighthouses? ›

There are two principal screwpile type lighthouses, 1) low spider-like foundations for rivers, bays, and sounds, and 2) tall offshore coastal towers.

What color are most lighthouses? ›

So, a lighthouse that is built of stone on a rocky island would most likely be painted white; a lighthouse near a town with numerous white buildings would probably be painted red. However, problems can occur in areas such as the central/southern Atlantic coast of the United States.

Is The Statue of Liberty a lighthouse? ›

The statue is assembled on site that year and officially opened in October, 1886. Upon opening, President Cleveland declared it under the auspices of the United States Lighthouse Board - the Statue of Liberty was officially a lighthouse.

Where are the best lighthouses in the US? ›

America's Best Lighthouses
  • Portland Head Light. Cape Elizabeth, Maine. ...
  • Heceta Head Lighthouse. Yachats, Oregon. ...
  • Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park, California. ...
  • Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina. ...
  • Boston Light. Little Brewster Island, Massachusetts.

What is the third oldest lighthouse in America? ›

Beavertail Lighthouse was built in 1856, making it the third oldest lighthouse in the U.S.. Only Boston Light on Little Brewster Island (1716) and Brant Point Light on Nantucket Island (1746) are older.

What is the most photographed lighthouse in the United States? ›

Adjacent to Fort Williams Park, The Portland Head Light is the most photographed lighthouse in America, and also the oldest in Maine.

What state has the 2nd most lighthouses? ›

There were 267 constructed on the U. S. shores of the Great Lakes. Michigan had the most with about 140, followed by Maine with about 80. State with the most lighthouses - Michigan with 124.

Who built lighthouses? ›

The first lighthouse in recorded history was Egypt's Pharos of Alexandria. Built around 280 BC, the source of light was a huge open fire at its summit. As well as being the world's first, it was also the tallest one ever built, standing a colossal 450 feet high.

How were lighthouses heated? ›

The original lighthouse consisted of a stone tower with a large brazier for the burning of coal at its' top. The coal was set alight each night and burned an average of a little over one ton of coal per night.

What happened to the flannan lighthouse keepers? ›

The three keepers, Ducat, Marshall and the Occasional have disappeared from the Island... The clocks were stopped and other signs indicated that the accident must have happened about a week ago. Poor fellows they must have been blown over the cliffs or drowned trying to secure a crane.

Is the lighthouse keeper's daughter a true story? ›

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter incorporates the true story of Grace Darling. Grace's father was the lighthouse keeper at Longstone on the Farne Islands, off the Northumbrian coast.

Who was the first female lighthouse keeper in Michigan? ›

“The first female lighthouse keeper in Michigan, Catherine Shook, started her job in 1849, and she came into that job as many women did, she succeeded her deceased husband, who died while in service,” Majher said.

Who was a famous lighthouse keeper? ›

The most well-known lighthouse keeper in the world was an American woman who was a Federal civil servant. Ida Wilson Lewis, lighthouse keeper of Rhode Island, saved somewhere between 13 and 25 lives, including men stationed at Fort Adams and a sheep. Ida Wilson Lewis was born Idawally Zorada Lewis in 1842.

Do lighthouse keepers live in The Lighthouse? ›

Many keepers were able to have their families with them at the lighthouse. They lived in the quarters that were connected to a lighthouse or a house nearby.

Who were the 3 lighthouse keepers who disappeared? ›

On 15 December 1900, lighthouse keepers James Ducat, Thomas Marshall and Donald McArthur noted the last entries on the slate at Flannan Isle Lighthouse. Shortly afterwards, they disappeared and were never seen again.

How much did lighthouse keepers get paid? ›

A salary of $130,000 and your own island is probably most people's idea of heaven, but life as East Brother Light Station's keepers is far from relaxing.

Did lighthouse keepers get paid well? ›

The salaries of Lighthouse Keepers in the US range from $26,400 to $60,350 , with a median salary of $48,520 . The middle 60% of Lighthouse Keepers makes $48,520, with the top 80% making $60,350.

Was the seagull in The Lighthouse real? ›

No seagulls were harmed while filming this movie. The seagull scenes were filmed with a puppet, which was digitally replaced with real seagulls. The real birds were trained rescue seagulls named Lady, Tramp and Johnny.

Who discovered the mystery of The Lighthouse keepers? ›

Arriving on the island on December 29, the board's superintendent, Robert Muirhead, began an investigation into the keepers' disappearance. Muirhead knew all three of the missing men well. Examining the oilskin that had been left behind, he concluded it belonged to William MacArthur.

Is The Lighthouse purgatory? ›

Pattinson's character, Thomas Howard, appears to be trapped in some form of purgatory from the onset of the film. Howard is constantly tempted to sin. Instead of maintaining his will power, Howard gives into his vices.

What is the oldest lighthouse in Michigan? ›

The Fort Gratiot Light Station is located next to the new Coast Guard Station in Port Huron and includes the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse (1829), which is the oldest lighthouse in Michigan.

How many members are in the lighthouse family? ›

Lighthouse Family were a British musical duo that rose to prominence in the mid-1990s and initially remained active until the early 2000s. Singer Tunde Baiyewu and songwriter Paul Tucker formed the act in 1993 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, after meeting while studying at university and both working at the same bar.

What is the newest lighthouse in Michigan? ›

New Presque Isle Lighthouse is located at the end of Grand Lake Road. New Presque Isle Lighthouse houses a gift shop and is open for climbing from late May through mid-October. Check out the lighthouse's website for hours. For more information, you can reach the lighthouse at (989) 595-9917.


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