Lighthouses transferred to the Federal Government (1789-1820)
Initially, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton reviewed contracts and the appointment of keepers before sending these documents to President Washington for his signature. In 1792, Hamilton turned over the administration of aids to navigation to the Commissioner of Revenue until Albert Gallatin became Secretary of the Treasury. Gallatin managed lighthouses for nearly all of his two terms in office when this responsibility went back to the Commissioner of Revenue. The commissioner retained this duty until the government abolished the office in 1820. At that time, the Secretary of the Treasury assigned the lighthouse responsibilities to Stephen Pleasonton, Fifth Auditor of the Treasury. The collector of customs administered lighthouses on the local level.
Lighthouses under the Fifth Auditor of the Treasury (1820-1852)
In 1837, Congress questioned the need for funding a large number of new lighthouses and appointed a board of navy commissioners to examine the necessity of proposed lighthouses. After careful study, the commissioners recommended dropping thirty-one of the proposed lighthouses.
In the following year, Congress divided the country into eight districts and assigned a naval officer to each district to examine the condition of current lighthouses and sites selected for new ones. The officers found that the condition of lighthouses ranged from good to terrible. They reported faulty construction, inadequate lighting system, and poor placement. In 1838, Congress increased the role of the Army Corps of Engineers in selecting the sites, constructing, and lighting lighthouses.
The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and required to cause a board to be convened at as early a day as may be practical after the passage of that act to be comprised of two officers of the Navy of high rank, two officers of Engineers of the Army, and such civil officers of scientific attainments as may be under the orders or at the disposition of the Treasury Department, and a junior officer of the Navy to act as Secretary to said board, whose duty it shall be under instructions from the Treasury Department to inquire into the condition of the Lighthouse Establishment of the United States, and make a general detailed report and programme to guide legislation in extending and improving our present system of construction, illumination, inspection, and superintendence.
The US Lighthouse Board (1852-1910)
|US Light House Service Seal|
- Richard Delafield (class of 1818, brigadier general and chief of engineers US Army)
- Hartman Bache (class of 1818, colonel Corps of Engineers US Army)
- Andrew A. Humphreys (class of 1831, major general US Volunteers)
- George W. Cullum (class of 1833, brigadier general US Volunteers)
- George G. Meade (class of 1835, major general US Army)
- Henry Benham (class of 1837, brigadier general US Volunteers)
- Jeremy Gilmer (class of 1839, major general Confederate States Army)
- Horatio Wright (class of 1841, major general US Volunteers)
- Amiel Whipple (class of 1841, major general US Volunteers)
- John Newton (class of 1842, brigadier general US Volunteers)
- John Pope (class of 1842, major general US Volunteers)
- William Franklin (class of 1843, major general US Volunteers)
- William F. Smith (class of 1845, major general US Volunteers)
- Alfred Gibbs (class of 1846, brigadier general US Volunteers)
- James St. C. Morton (class of 1851, brigadier general US Volunteers)
- Orlando Poe (class of 1856, brigadier general US Volunteers)