Keepers instructions Seeing The Light

Instructions to the keepers of lighthouses within the  U.S.



The United States Lighthouse Service created written instructions for the keepers of the lights. The following excerpt from those instructions shows that while the keepers life may appear to be romantic through our eyes, it was surely one of hard work and drudgery, especially during bad weather!

Treasury Department

Fifth Auditor’s Office, April 29, 1835

Sir: It has been thought proper to transmit to the keepers of light-houses specific and formal instructions as to the duties which it is expected they will perform; and these you will find enclosed to the number of ……… being one for each keeper within your district, and which you will forward to him.

In making up your usual annual statement, at the close of each year, it is particularly desirable that you should make known the conduct of the several keepers under your charge, for the past year; and that you will state weather, in your opinion, the compensation now allowed to them, or either of them, be more or less than is suitable and proper.

I am, very respectfully, sir,
Your obedient servant

S. Pleasonton,
Fifth Auditor and Acting Com. Rev.
Superintendents of Light-houses, &c.

Instructions to Lighthouse Keepers

. You are to light the lamps every evening at sun-setting, and keep them continually burning bright and clear till sun-rising.

2. You are to be careful that the lamps, reflectors, and lanterns, are constantly kept clean, and in order; and particularly to be careful that no lamps, wood, or candles, be left burning anywhere so as to endanger fire.

3. In order to maintain the greatest degree of light during the night, the wicks are to be trimmed every four hours, taking care that they are exactly even on the top.

4. You are to keep an exact account of the quantity of oil received from time to time; the number of gallons, quarts, gills, &c. consumed each night, and deliver a copy of the same to the superintendent every three months, ending 31st March, 30th June, September, and 31st December, in each year, with an account of the quantity on hand at the time.

5. You are not to sell, or permit to be sold, any spiritous liquors on the premises of the United States, but will treat with civility and attention, such strangers as may visit the light-house under your charge, and as may conduct themselves in an orderly manner.

6. You will receive no tube-glasses, wicks, or any other article which the contractors, Messrs. Morgan and Co. at New Bedford, are bound to supply, which shall not be of a suitable kind; and if the oil they shall supply, should, on trial, prove bad, you will immediately acquaint the superintendent therewith, in order that he may exact from them a compliance with their contract.

7. Should the contractors omit to supply the quantity of oil, wicks, tube-glasses, or other articles necessary to keep the lights in continual operation, you will give the superintendent timely notice thereof, that he may inform the contractors, and direct them to forward the requisite supplies.

8. You will not absent yourself from the light-house, at any time, without first obtaining the consent of the superintendent, unless the occasion be so sudden and urgent as not to admit of an application to that officer; in which case, by leaving suitable substitute, you may be absent for twenty-four hours.

9. All your communications intended for this office, must be transmitted through the superintendent, through whom the proper answer will be returned.

S. Pleasonton
Fifth Auditor and Acting Commissioner of the Revenue.

This page last updated 10/01/2003Pepper

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