United States. Light-House Board

Variant names

Hide Profile

The United States Light-House Board* was originally known as the United States Light-House Establishment, a body created in 1789 to manage the twelve colonial lighthouses that were then in existence along the eastern seaboard, as well as to oversee construction of new structures. The first half of the nineteenth century was a particularly prolific period in the construction of new lighthouses -- forty were built in the period from 1789 to 1820, and another three hundred or so were built by 1850. In 1851, responding to complaints about how the Light-House Establishment was managing its affairs, Congress authorized a board of specialists to study the matter. The board found that lighthouses built during the past few decades suffered from inadequate construction and design, and as a result Congress turned over the administration of lighthouses to the newly created U.S. Light-House Board, a nine-member body essentially composed of Naval and Army engineer officers. The country was then divided into twelve lighthouse districts, each with an inspector who was responsible for construction projects, maintenance, and finances. The Fourth District, with which this collection is concerned, encompassed the Atlantic coast and adjoining bays from northern New Jersey to northern Virginia, and had its office centered in Philadelphia. In 1886 the number of districts was expanded to sixteen. In 1903, the Light-House Board was transferred to the Department of Commerce and Labor, and in 1910 it officially became known as the Bureau of Light-Houses, as the number of districts increased to nineteen. In 1939 the Bureau was transferred yet again, this time to the Coast Guard, under whose authority it remains today.

The collection contains the names of a number of officers who presided on the Light-House Board, one of the most prominent of whom was Charles Walker Raymond (1842–1913). He was a military engineer, born in Hartford, Connecticut, to Robert Raikes and Mary Anna (Pratt) Raymond. In 1861, Charles Raymond graduated from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, continuing on to West Point and attending the U.S. Military Academy. After serving in the Union Army, he was graduated from West Point in 1865 and was promoted to First Lieutenant of Engineers. Many promotions were to follow: he was made a captain in 1867, a major in 1883, a lieutenant colonel in 1898, and a colonel in 1904. During that same year he retired, and received a final promotion to the rank of brigadier general. Raymond was married twice; first to Clara Wise in 1866, who died in 1901, and second to Alice D. Krause in 1904, who survived him

His career in the army was wide-ranging, as he specialized in technical work such as designing fortifications and bridges. He traveled on various surveying expeditions, including one to Alaska in 1869, just two years after the United States purchased the territory from Russia. There, he attempted to survey and make maps of the Yukon River while helping to establish the border with Canada. During the 1870s he was an instructor at West Point, and during the mid-1880s he was in charge of river and harbor improvements in Massachusetts. Later, Raymond was transferred to Philadelphia, where he was put in charge of harbor improvements in the Delaware River and Bay, and this included the design of a new Delaware breakwater. It is at this point (from 1890–1897) that Raymond’s name appears in the collection, as numerous individuals seeking employment on construction projects addressed letters of application to him. In addition, his engineering expertise was utilized in the planning of the Panama Canal. He held numerous chairmanships, including the Board of Engineers on Deep Waterways (1897), and the American Section of the Permanent International Commission of Navigation Congresses.

*Note: The word lighthouse is hyphenated in the name of the organization as it appears in the official and established form of the organization’s name. All other use of the word is not hyphenated.

Collins, Francis A. Sentinels Along Our Coast. New York: The Century Co., 1922. Dictionary of American Biography, ed. Dumas Malone. vol.8. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1963. Holland Jr., Francis Ross. American Lighthouses: Their Illustrated History Since 1716. Brattleboro, Vt: Stephen Green Press, 1972. Snow, Edward Rowe. Famous Lighthouses of America. New York: Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1955. United States Light-House Board. Specifications for the Twin-screw Steel Steam Light-house Tender Sunflower. Washington, D.C.: Light-House Board, 1905.

From the guide to the United States Light-House Board collection, 1875–1912, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Johnston, Wilsy J. Enterprise, 1891-[ongoing]. Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee County Federated Library System
referencedIn United States. Coast Guard. Cumberland Head Lighthouse records, 1837-1871. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Robinson, A. A. [Correspondence regarding the construction of a lighthouse for the harbor of Guyamas, Mexico] - 1882-1883. University of Michigan
referencedIn Abraham Flexner Papers, 1865-1989, (bulk 1900-1959) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Gilbert, George, 1835-1873. Lighthouse papers of George and Abner G. Gilbert, 1871-1900. Buffalo History Museum, Research Library
referencedIn Smithsonian Institution. Records of the Smithsonian Institution, 1831-1906. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf Lanstra, Captain. Marigold. Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee County Federated Library System
creatorOf United States Light-House Board collection, 1875–1912 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
creatorOf Henry Family. Joseph Henry Collection, 1808, 1825-1878, and related papers to circa 1903. Smithsonian Institution Archives
referencedIn John Grimes Walker Papers, 1873-1903, (bulk 1885-1894) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Hilgard, Eugene W. (Eugene Woldemar), 1833-1916. Steps taken in Congress during the early years of the Civil War contemplating changes in, or transfer of, the Coast Survey, referred to by Professor Hilgard. United States. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
creatorOf United States. Light-House Board. Copper Harbor Light Station Records, Circa 1850-Circa 1900. Michigan Technological University, J.R. Van Pelt & Opie Library; Michigan Tech
referencedIn A. D. Bache Papers, 1828-1863, (bulk 1836-1863) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Lighthouse papers, 1853-1878. The Mariners' Museum Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bache, A. D. (Alexander Dallas), 1806-1867. person
associatedWith Copper Harbor Light (Mich.) corporateBody
associatedWith Flexner, Abraham, 1866-1959. person
associatedWith Gilbert, George, 1835-1873. person
associatedWith Henry Family. family
associatedWith Smithsonian Institution. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Coast Guard. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. National Archives and Records Administration corporateBody
associatedWith Walker, John Grimes, 1835-1907. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Copper Harbor (Mich.)
Lighthouse keepers

Corporate Body


Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w65764vx

Ark ID: w65764vx

SNAC ID: 4840960