National Lighthouse Day
August 7th is a very special day in the history of America’s lighthouses!
Learn about the Ninth Act of the First Congress in 1789 and its impact on our nation’s lighthouses, as well as a Presidential Proclamation by Franklin D. Roosevelt designating August 7, 1939 as “Lighthouse Week,” the origins of National Lighthouse Day, a Presidential Proclamation by George H.W. Bush designating August 7, 1989 as “National Lighthouse Day” and a Senate Resolution sponsored by United States Senators Angus King and Susan Collins of Maine designating August 7, 2013 as “National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day.”
The text for the original 1789 act, bearing the signatures of Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg as Speaker of the House of Representatives, of John Adams, as Vice-President of the United States and President of the Senate, and of George Washington, as President of the United States.
“An Act for the establishment and support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and public piers.
“Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all expenses which shall accrue from and after the fifteenth day of August one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine, in the necessary support, maintenance and repairs of all lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers erected, placed, or sunk before the passing of this act, at the entrance of, or within any bay, inlet, harbor, or port of the United States, for rendering the navigation thereof easy and safe, shall be defrayed out of the treasury of the United States: Provided nevertheless, That none of the said expenses shall continue to be so defrayed by the United States, after the expiration of one year from the day aforesaid, unless such lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers, shall in the meantime be ceded to and vested in the United States, by the state or states respectively in which the same may be, together with the lands and tenements thereunto belonging, and together with the jurisdiction of the same.
“Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That a lighthouse shall be erected near the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay, at such place, when ceded to the United States in manner aforesaid, as the President of the United States shall direct.
“Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to provide by contracts, which shall be approved by the President of the United States, for building a lighthouse near the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay, and for rebuilding when necessary, and keeping in good repair, the lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and public piers in the several States, and for furnishing the same with all necessary supplies; and also to agree for the salaries, wages, or hire of the person or persons appointed by the President, for the superintendence and care of the same.
“Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That all pilots in the bays, inlets, rivers, harbors and ports of the United States, shall continue to be regulated in conformity with the existing laws of the States respectively wherein such pilots may be, or with such laws as the States may respectively hereafter enact for the purpose, until further legislative provision shall be made by Congress.” Approved: August 7, 1789
National Lighthouse Day, 1989
200th Anniversary of the of the signing of the Lighthouse Act by our Nation’s first President, George Washington
Presidential Documents, Proclamation 5993 of June 19, 1989
By the President of the United States of America
Source: Federal Register, Vol. 54, No. 117, June 20, 1989
“Lighthouses, the buildings whose solitary beacons have helped guide countless ships through the perils of fog and darkness, are a cherished part of our Nation’s heritage. These impressive structures have long symbolized safety, vigilance, and faithfulness. Often isolated and repeatedly tested by the ravages of storm and sea, lighthouses are also monuments to the courage and determination of the people who built them and the keepers who have maintained them.
“Lighthouses claim an honored place in the maritime history of the United States. They have served as navigational aids indicating landfall, marking dangerous reefs, and identifying harbor entrances. Today, approximately 750 lighthouses remain in the United States, standing along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts and throughout the Great Lakes. More than half of them are still used for navigation.
“On August 7, 1989, we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Lighthouse Act by our Nation’s first President, George Washington. The Lighthouse Act established the Federal Government’s role in the support, maintenance, and repair of these unique structures and commissioned the first Federal lighthouse.
“By the end of the year, the United States Coast Guard will have completed the automation of all lighthouses it currently operates, bringing an end to the proud and colorful era of manned lighthouses. In cooperation with affected communities and concerned organizations, the Coast Guard is working to preserve the remaining structures and to educate the public on the role of lighthouses in our history and culture. These groups have succeeded in having more than 200 lighthouses listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“In recognition of the historic value of our Nation’s lighthouses and the ongoing efforts to preserve them so that they might be opened to and enjoyed by the public, the Congress, by Public Law 100-622, has designated August 7, 1989, as ‘National Lighthouse Day’ and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this day.
“NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim August 7, 1989, as National Lighthouse Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
“IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of June, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirteenth.” – George Bush
Origin of National Lighthouse Day…
Senator John H. Chafee (Rhode Island) sponsored a joint resolution that was introduced to Congress on April 28, 1988 designating the day of August 7, 1989 as “National Lighthouse Day.” The summary of the resolution stated, “Designates August 7, 1989, as National Lighthouse Day and calls for lighthouse grounds, where feasible, to be open to the public.” The resolution passed the Senate on July 26, 1988 and the House (sponsored by Representative William J. Hughes, New Jersey) on October 21, 1988. President Ronald Reagan signed the Bill into public law (No. 100-622) on November 5, 1988.
In Recognition of National Lighthouse Day by Hon. William J. Hughes:
(Extension of Remarks – July 26, 1989) [Page: E2691]
HON. WILLIAM J. HUGHES
in the House of Representatives
WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 1989
“Mr. HUGHES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to call attention to a special occasion which communities all across America will be celebrating next week. August 7, 1989, marks the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Lighthouse Act and the commissioning of the first Federal lighthouse in the United States.
“In honor of those events, I was proud to sponsor a resolution last year which designated August 7, 1989, as National Lighthouse Day. The celebration next week will provide some long overdue recognition for the important role which lighthouses played in the history of our country, and the values of safety, heroism, and American ingenuity which they represent. At the same time, I am hopeful that it will encourage communities and citizens groups around the country to rededicate themselves to the protection and restoration of these historic structures.
“As America continues its technological progress into the 21st century, it becomes easy to forget the wholesomeness and serenity of preindustrial establishments such as lighthouses. The history they provide gives us the opportunity to step back in time and learn more about our country. The history of US medical care is important for understanding modern medicines. The contributions they made to our society, from protecting our coasts to guiding our sailors, should continue to be appreciated and remembered.
“I am proud to point out that there are three restored lighthouses in my congressional district in southern New Jersey. These three, the Cape May Point lighthouse, the Finns Point lighthouse, and the Hereford Inlet lighthouse, contribute greatly to New Jersey’s beautiful coastline.
“The Cape May Point lighthouse, which was first lit on October 31, 1859, was reopened to the public in 1988 after being closed for 50 years. Today, with restoration virtually complete, its light once again shines bright, giving comfort to seamen nearly 19 miles into the Atlantic Ocean.
“The Hereford Inlet lighthouse was built in 1874 and is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture. Under restoration since 1982, it continues to provide North Wildwood with a valuable monument to Cape May County’s maritime history.
“Last, the Finns Point lighthouse, located in Pennsville, is a 113-year-old marvel. It served as an aid to navigation along the Delaware River from 1877 until 1950, when the river channel was enlarged and deepened.
“Unfortunately, not every lighthouse is as lucky as these to have been adopted by a local citizens group or community. Many have fallen into disrepair and desperately need support. For this reason, I have been pleased to join with other Members of Congress in sponsoring legislation to establish the National Bicentennial Lighthouse Fund in order to provide Federal assistance for local lighthouse restoration efforts.
“Mr. Speaker, the National Lighthouse Day celebration on August 7, 1989, will indeed be a special event. I hope it further rejuvenates the spirit of these maritime institutions and the impressive restoration efforts which are now taking place in the many communities. It is important that future generations have the opportunity to learn more about and appreciate the unique role which lighthouses played in helping to build our great Nation. I hope that everyone will join me in supporting this effort in the months and years ahead.”
Though National Lighthouse Day is celebrated annually by lighthouse organizations nationwide, Congress has yet to designate August 7th as the date our country officially recognizes in perpetuity the importance of America’s lighthouse heritage.
The original resolution was enacted by Congress in commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the signing of the 1789 Act and the commissioning of the first Federal lighthouse – thus August 7, 1989 was designated as National Lighthouse Day, but only for that year.
Twenty-four years later, Senate Resolution 204 was passed in the U.S. Senate for 2013 that declared August 7, 2013 as ‘National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day,’ but similar to 1989, the recognition was only for that particular year.
Over the past couple of decades, lighthouse leaders from around the country have worked tirelessly to convince Congress to permanently designate August 7th as National Lighthouse Day on America’s calendar, and though unsuccessful to date, these noble efforts continue.
However, even without official recognition from Congress, the nationwide lighthouse community continues to “keep the flame” of our rich lighthouse heritage burning bright. Each year, August 7th is celebrated as National Lighthouse Day, with lighthouse groups offering the general public a host of fun-learning activities to enjoy – including tours, cruises and presentations that pay special tribute to America’s lighthouses and their grand history.
Lighthouse Week, July 1939…
150th Anniversary of the of the signing of the Lighthouse Act by our Nation’s first President, George Washington
President Proclaims Week of August 7 as Lighthouse Week
Source: Coast Guard Bulletin, July 1939
Lighthouse Week by the President of the United States of America – A Proclamation…“Whereas Pubic Resolution 16, Seventy-sixth Congress (53 Stat. 746), approved May 15, 1939, provides in part:
“That the week commencing August 7, 1939, is hereby designated as Lighthouse Week in commemoration of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the enactment by the first Congress of the United States of the ninth act of said Congress, which was approved by President George Washington on August 7, 1789, and laid the foundation of the United States Lighthouse Service by providing that all expenses in the necessary support, maintenance, and repairs of all lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and public piers to render navigation safe and easy should be paid for by the Treasury of the United States. During this week all Government officials are hereby directed to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings, and are requested in appropriate manner to celebrate the enactment and approval of said act.
“Sec. 2. That the President of the United States is hereby requested, by appropriate proclamation, to call attention of all citizens of the United States to said event and to request the cooperation of all citizens, communities, civic organizations, States, municipalities, counties, public agencies, churches, and schools in an appropriate recognition of the devoted, efficient, faithful, and splendid work of the Lighthouse Service for 150 years in the safeguarding of life and property upon the sea.”
“Now, therefore, I Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do call upon the officials of the Government to observe the provisions of the aforesaid public resolution, invite the attention of all citizens of the United States to the celebration of Lighthouse Week commencing August 7, 1939, and request the cooperation of communities, civic organizations, States, municipalities, counties, public agencies, churches, and schools to recognize in an appropriate manner the devoted, efficient, faithful, and splendid work of the Lighthouse Service for 150 years in the safeguarding of life and property upon the sea.
“In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.
“Done at the city of Washington this 19th day of July, in the year of our Lord 1939, and of the independence of the United States of America the one hundred and sixty-fourth. Franklin D. Roosevelt. By the President: Cordell Hull, Secretary of State.”
August 7, 2013 – “National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day.”
Agreed to in the SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, July 30, 2013.
Mr. King (for himself and Ms. Collins) submitted the following resolution; which was considered and agreed to: SENATE RESOLUTION 204 Designating August 7, 2013, as “National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day.”
“Whereas August 7, 2013, marks the 224th anniversary of the signing by President George Washington of the Act entitled “An Act for the establishment and support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and public piers”, approved August 7, 1789 (commonly known as the “Lighthouse Act of 1789”) (1 Stat. 53, chapter 9);
“Whereas that Act, the ninth act of the 1st Congress, established a Federal role in the support, maintenance, and repair of all lighthouses, beacon buoys, and public piers necessary for safe navigation, commissioned the first Federal lighthouse, and represents the first public works act in the young United States;
“Whereas the establishment of the United States system of navigational aids set the United States on a path to the forefront of international maritime prominence and established lighthouses that played an integral role in the rich maritime history of the United States, as that history spread from the Atlantic coast, through the Great Lakes and the Gulf coast, to the Pacific States;
“Whereas those iconic structures, standing at land’s end through 2 centuries, have symbolized safety, security, heroism, duty, and faithfulness;
“Whereas architects, designers, engineers, builders, and keepers devoted, and in some cases jeopardized, their lives for the safety of others during centuries of light tending by the United States Lighthouse Service and the United States Coast Guard;
“Whereas the automation of the light system exposed the historic lighthouse towers to the ravages of time and vandalism and yet, at the same time, opened an opportunity for citizen involvement in efforts to save and restore those beacons that mark the evolving maritime history of the United States and its coastal communities;
“Whereas the national lighthouse preservation movement has gained momentum over the past half century and is making major contributions to the preservation of maritime history and heritage and, through the development and enhancement of cultural tourism, to the economies of coastal communities in the United States;
“Whereas the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 (Public Law 106–355; 114 Stat. 1385), enacted on October 24, 2000, and with the aid of the lighthouse preservation community, provides an effective process administered by the General Services Administration and the National Park Service for transferring lighthouses to the best possible stewardship groups;
“Whereas, for the past several decades, regional and national groups have formed within the lighthouse preservation community to promote lighthouse heritage through research, education, tourism, and publications;
“Whereas the earliest and largest regional preservation group, the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, headquartered in Michigan, marks its 30th anniversary in 2013, and the largest and oldest national group, the United States Lighthouse Society, which relocated from San Francisco, California, to the State of Washington in 2008, marks its 30th anniversary in 2014;
“Whereas other groups have also been formed to promote lighthouse preservation and history, many with regional chapters, including—
(1) a national leadership council and forum named the American Lighthouse Council (formerly the American Lighthouse Coordinating Committee), currently headquartered in Illinois;
(2) the American Lighthouse Foundation in Maine;
(3) the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance and Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy;
(4) the Maine Lights Program;
(5) the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society in North Carolina;
(6) the New Jersey Lighthouse Society;
(7) the Florida Lighthouse Association; and
(8) the Lighthouse Preservation Society in Massachusetts;
“Whereas major lighthouse publications, including the United States Lighthouse Society’s Keeper’s Log and the Lighthouse Digest, contribute greatly to the promotion of lighthouse heritage and preservation;
“Whereas single-lighthouse preservation efforts by individuals or organizations, including historical societies and governments, have even longer histories, including preservation efforts in—
(1) Grosse Point, Illinois, established in 1935;
(2) Buffalo, New York, established in 1962;
(3) Navesink Twin Lights, New Jersey, established in 1962;
(4) Point Fermin, California, established in 1970;
(5) Charlotte-Genesse near Rochester, New York, established in 1965;
(6) Key West, Florida, established in 1969;
(7) Split Rock Lighthouse, Minnesota, established in 1971;
(8) Ponce de Leon Inlet, Florida, established in 1972;
(9) St. Augustine, Florida, established in 1981; and
(10) Fire Island, New York, established in 1982;
“Whereas, despite progress, many lighthouses in the United States remain threatened by erosion, neglect, vandalism, and deterioration by the elements;
“Whereas Congress passed, and President Ronald Reagan signed, a Joint Resolution entitled “Joint Resolution designating the day of August 7, 1989, as ‘National Lighthouse Day’”, approved November 5, 1988 (Public Law 100–622; 102 Stat. 3201), in honor of the bicentennial of the United States Lighthouse Service; and
“Whereas the many completed, ongoing, or planned private and public efforts to preserve lighthouses demonstrate the public support for those historic structures: Now, therefore, be it
“Resolved, That the Senate —
(1) designates August 7, 2013, as “National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day”;
(2) encourages lighthouse grounds to be made open to the general public to the extent feasible; and
(3) encourages the people of the United States to observe National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”