University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

United States
Light-House Board


Manuscript Collection Number: 381
Accessioned: Gift of the Moyerman Family, c.1971.
Extent: 1.5 linear ft. and oversize material
Content: bids, contracts, correspondence, plans, financial records, logbook, account book, and ephemera.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: October 1998 by Arthur Siegel.

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Table of Contents

Historical Note

Under direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, the United States Light-House Board* was created in 1852. The purpose of the board was to oversee 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 included eight members comprising military officers/engineers and civilian scientists, as well as the Secretary of the Treasury. 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.

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.

Scope and Content Note

The U.S. Light-House Establishment Collection concerns the construction and maintenance of lighthouses located in the Fourth Light-House District around the Delaware Bay. The collection, spanning the period 1875-1912, comprises 1.5 linear feet and oversize material, and includes contracts, bids, correspondence, plans, a logbook, and an account book. The collection is divided into three main series: I. projects, II. general contracts, and III. ephemera.

The first series spans the period 1875-1912, and contains bids, contracts, and correspondence pertaining to repair and construction projects for lighthouses and lighthouse tenders (small vessels) in the Delaware Bay area.

The second series spans the period 1889-1909, and contains bids and contracts for keeping buoys, for provisions, for fuel, and for general repairs and installations to several light vessels.

The third series spans the period 1885-1909, and includes a lighthouse keeper's logbook, an account book, correspondence, and plans for the lighthouse tender Sunflower.

Most of the major maintenance and construction projects in the collection concern lighthouses, light vessels, or buoys found in the Delaware Bay. Most of these landmarks are still in existence, and are described under the appropriate heading in the contents section. The collection provides much detailed information regarding the location and construction of these important navigational landmarks, as well as a history (however incomplete) of their use.

Several of the projects in the collection concern range lighthouses, which are usually found near shoals and at the mouths of channels. These are two towers that work in tandem, the rear one resting on a higher plane so that its beacon is in perfect alignment with that of the front tower. This creates the effect of a single pulse of light, as viewed from an oncoming vessel, and the trajectory of this pulse is in line with safe passage through a channel. Thus, navigators who observe two pulses that are out of sync know that they are too close to a shoal, and are in danger of running aground. In addition, one of the projects deals with the lighthouse tender Zizania. Tenders play an important role, bringing supplies to lighthouses, patrolling the waters to make certain that all beacons are in working order, and filling in for damaged light vessels.

Lighted buoys were frequently used in place of lighthouses, for they were more economical and generally as effective as a warning system. These buoys were also important in places like Delaware Bay, where many shoals were unable to support the weight of a tower. New technology, such as the screwpile, which emerged at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries helped to solve this problem by increasing the security of the tower's foundation, but buoys remained a popular option. The collection includes numerous bids and contracts for maintenance of these buoy systems, primarily those off the southeastern shore of New Jersey.

Another important substitute for lighthouses were light vessels. These boats remained anchored off shore, and were continuously maintained by an on-board crew. The vessels carried one or two lanterns, and some even fog signals. The first recorded light vessel was used in England in 1731, and by the early nineteenth century they were being used in the United States as well. By 1837 there were twenty such vessels in the United States, and by 1852 there were as many as forty-two. However, their popularity gradually declined, so that by 1889 there were only twenty-four in use. This decline was the result of several factors: the improvement of lighthouse technology, difficulty and frequency of maintenance, and uncertain reliability. The masts of a vessel occasionally obstructed the view of the lights, and crews were not always competent in keeping the lanterns lit. Nevertheless, these vessels were of particular importance in the Chesapeake and Delaware bays.

The bulk of the items in the collection are bid and contract packets for various work projects in the Fourth Light-House District. Companies and individuals who were interested in contracting for a job requested an application packet from the Light-House Board, which included instructions to the bidders as well as specifications for the work to be done. These were filled out and returned; the lowest bidder generally won the job. Towards the back of these same booklets are contracts and applications for sureties. All of the contracts contain signatures of approval from various officers in either the Treasury Department or the Department of Commerce and Labor.

Contents List

Folder -- Contents


     Series I. Projects, 1875-1912
     This series contains bids, contracts, and correspondence pertaining to repair and
     construction projects for lighthouses and lighthouse tenders in the Delaware Bay area. 
     These projects were sponsored by the Light-House Board for the Fourth District, which
     contracted with companies and individual craftsmen in Philadelphia, Wilmington, and
     New Jersey.  Also included are supply records for the New Castle Rear lights.  Unless
     otherwise stated, the bids and contracts are in standardized booklets, many of which have
     been broken up since they were originally held together with metal pins.

F1   Ship John Shoal, 1875-1876  (2 items)
     A caisson-base lighthouse, built in 1877, located near the mouth of the Cohansey River,
     in New Jersey.  The lighthouse is so named because it was constructed on the spot where
     the ship John sank in 1797.  The folder includes a bound contract and specifications for
     construction of a lighthouse on Ship John Shoal in Delaware Bay.  The contract was
     awarded to the Atlantic Steam Engine Works of Brooklyn, New York.  Pasted onto the
     first page of the booklet is a small newspaper clipping of an advertisement which
     announced the project and encouraged bidders to apply.  Also included is a one-page
     holograph letter from the Atlantic Steam Engine Works to W.F. Reynolds (W.F. Raynolds), engineer of
     the Fourth Light-House District in Philadelphia (dated May 16, 1876).

F2   Liston's Tree Range Lights, 1876  (1 item)
     This range of buoys and lighthouses lies along the coast of Delaware between Townsend
     and Middletown.  Includes a contract with the Kellogg Bridge Co. of Buffalo, New York,
     for metalwork and the construction of two lighthouses on the Delaware Bay.  Various
     signatures of approval are found on the front and back covers.

F3   Cherry Island Flats Range -- Bids, 1879  (16 items)
     This range lies on the north side of the Christiana River.  Included are bids for
     construction, and a contract.  There are several handwritten bids from builders George C.
     Jackson and James L. Marshall of Philadelphia:  for a pier, tower, and walk for the front
     light; for the keeper's dwelling and lower rear light; and for a keeper's dwelling for the
     front light.  Also included are bids from Hirst & McCall, Thomas A. Lynch, William T.
     Poole, and James & Matthew Ferguson -- all of whom were from Philadelphia.  In
     addition, the folder contains an abstract of the bids submitted for this project, listing the
     names of the bidders and their sureties, a breakdown of their charges, and the time
     required for completion of the job.

     Series I. Projects  (cont'd)

F4   Cherry Island Flats Range -- Contract, 1879-1880  (3 items)
     Includes a contract with Stephen P. Rush, who was the lowest bidder.  On the back cover
     are approval signatures from the Treasury Inspector, the Treasury Department, and the
     Light-House Board.  Also included is a signed receipt of contract by Stephen Rush, and
     an agreement of extension of the contract for thirty days (dated 21 Jan 1880).

F5   Zizania - Bids, 1899-1904  (20 items)
     Bids were accepted by the lighthouse Inspector of the Fourth District for the job of
     repairing and installing equipment on the lighthouse tender Zizania.  Included are bids
     from Harlan & Hollingsworth Co. and Pusey & Jones Co., both from Wilmington;
     Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Co. of Pittsburgh; and from Philadelphia the
     Kensington Shipyard Company, J.F. Buchanan & Co., and Neafie & Levy Ship and
     Engine Building Co.  Also included are two advertisements (1899 & 1902) announcing
     the job, specifications to bidders, and correspondence from two manufacturing

F6   Zizania -- Contracts, 1900-1901  (3 items)
     Includes a contract with Pusey & Jones Co. (1901) for general repairs; and a contract with
     Frank Sellers and Henry K. Miller for furnishing and installing an electrical plant on the
     Zizania (1900).  Also included is a four-page specification for this electric plant.

F7   Fenwick Island, 1902-1903  (7 items)
     The lighthouse is an 86-foot high structure built in 1859, located about 20 miles south of
     Cape Henlopen near the Maryland border.  The folder includes bids from the Kensington
     Shipyard Co. and the Neafie & Levy Ship and Engine Building Co. for a project to make
     repairs on the Fenwick Island Shoal Light-Vessel.  There are two copies of each, and are
     backed by sureties from the U.S. Fidelity & Guarantee Co. of Baltimore.  Also included
     are two copies of specifications for these repairs, and a one-page typed extract from the
     bylaws of the Neafie & Levy Co.

F8   Winter-Quarter Shoal Light-Vessel #45, 11 May 1903  (5 items)
     Part of a system of buoys that lies about 10-15 miles offshore from Assateague, in
     Maryland.  Included are two copies of specifications for repairs, as well as bids from the
     Kensington Shipyard Co., and the Pusey & Jones Co.  The surety for Pusey & Jones Co.
     is Lewis P. Bush of Wilmington.  Also included is a one-page signed and sealed affidavit
     testifying that Thomas H. Savey is the legitimate president of the Pusey & Jones Co.

     Series I. Projects  (cont'd)

F9   Overfalls Light Vessel #69, 28 Oct 1904  (4 items)
     The Overfalls lighting system lies between Cape Henlopen, Delaware, and Cape May,
     New Jersey. Included are two copies of a bid from the Kensington Shipyard Company for
     repairs, as well as two copies of specifications for general repairs.  The bid includes a
     surety from the U.S. Fidelity and Guarantee Co.

     New Castle Rear, 1903-1912  (33 items)
     A light-house that stands 110 feet, and is located on the main channel of the Delaware
     River.  The following folders contain supply and property reports, as well as other
     miscellaneous items, pertaining to the rear light-house of the New Castle Range.  The
     forms contain descriptions of the lights, as well as a comprehensive accounting of the
     nature and quantity of supplies used over the course of a year.

F10  Light Keeper's List of Yearly Supplies, 1905-1912  (7 items)
     Form #210 from the Department of Commerce and Labor.

F11  Keeper's Annual Property Return, 1904-1911  (8 items)
     Form #32 from the Treasury Department.

F12  Requisition for Supplies, 1911-1912  (2 items)
     Form #30 from the Department of Commerce and Labor.

F13  Receipt for Property Delivered, 1905-1911  (6 items)
     Form #30 from the Department of Commerce and Labor.   These supplies were delivered
     by the vessel "Armeria."

F14  Miscellaneous Documents, 1903-09  (10 items)
     Includes a report of absence, dated February 28, 1906; a transmitting voucher, dated July
     28, 1909; four supply receipts from 1903 and 1906; a typed letter from Colonel W.A.
     Jones, engineer of the Fourth Light-House District, to the keeper of the New Castle Rear
     lights (dated February 4, 1904); and three blank requisition forms.

     Series II.  General Contracts, 1889-1909
     Included are yearly bids and contracts for keeping buoys, as well as for provisions and
     fuel to be supplied to lighthouses and light vessels in the fourth district.  The buoys
     named in the contracts lay off the southeastern shore of New Jersey, near Abscom and
     Little Egg harbors.  In addition, some of the contracts pertain to installations on and
     repairs to lightvessels in the region. 

F15  Keeping Buoys, 1890-1909  (10 items)
     Included are bids from John D. Whealton of Chincoteague, Virginia; George Clinton
     Buck of Cape May, New Jersey; and from Abscom, New Jersey, Zepheniah Steelman,
     and Daniel J. Champion.  These bids date from 1890-1891.  Also included are contracts
     with George Clinton Buck (1891 & 1903); L. Furman Smith of Cape May, New Jersey
     (1902, 1904, & 1909); and Howard N. Smith, also of Cape May, New Jersey (1906 &

F16  Fuel, 1889-1909  (9 items)
     The fuel in question is coal, and included are contracts with George W. Bush & Sons of
     Wilmington (1889 & 1894); Charles D. Norton & Co. of Philadelphia (1899); George R.
     Radford of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1905 & 1908-09); and Weston Dodson & Co., also
     of Bethlehem (1900).  Also included is a bid from George W. Bush & Sons (1890).

F17  Provisions, 1890-1909  (6 items)
     Included is a bid from Joseph S. & William P. Elwell of Philadelphia (1890); as well as
     contracts with Frank P. Turner of Wilmington (1900); and Darrah Elwell of Philadelphia
     (1904-5, 1907, & 1909).  The contracts include a detailed breakdown of foodstuffs to be
     provided, and the daily rations to be distributed to individual workmen and crewmen.

F18  Miscellaneous Contracts, 1899 & 1901  (7 items)
     Included are contracts with the Pusey & Jones Co. for four steel boilers for lighthouses
     (1899), and for retubing boilers of relief lights vessel #16 (1899); and a contract with
     William Cramp & Sons, Ship and Engine Building Co. for docking, cleaning, painting
     the bottom of, and general repairs to light vessel #52 (1901).  Also included is a four-page
     surety bond from the U.S. Fidelity & Guarantee Co. on behalf of William Cramp & Sons
     (dated July 24, 1901), and a three-page list of specifications for tubular boilers for light
     vessels #40 and #44 (n.d.).  In addition, there are two blueprints:  one of a design for steel
     boilers for light vessels #40 and #44, and an incomplete hull design by the Pusey & Jones
     Co. (dated 1900).

     Series III. Ephemera, 1884-1909
     This series includes a lighthouse keeper's logbook, an account book, correspondence, and
     plans for the lighthouse tender Sunflower.

     Correspondence, 1885-1897  (73 items)
     The bulk of this correspondence entails letters of application for employment submitted
     to the U.S. Engineers office in Philadelphia.  Many of the applicants are requesting
     positions as inspectors, supervisors, and craftsmen, and often make reference to letters of
     recommendation from former employers that were sent independently.  Most of these
     letters were addressed to Colonel C.W. Raymond.

F19  C.W. Raymond, 1890-1897  (67 items)
     Letters of reference as well as resumés are included with the letters of application.  Most
     of these are handwritten, though some are typed, and appear on various letterheads,
     including from the War Department, and the Washington Hotel in Philadelphia.  In
     addition, several of the letters of reference were sent by members of the United States
     legislature; including two from Delaware Representative William Mc Aleer (1891-1895),
     one from New Jersey Representative Henry C. Loudenslager (1893-1911), one from
     Pennsylvania Representative A.C. [Alfred Crout] Harmer (1871-1875 & 1877-1900), two
     from Delaware Senator George Gray (1885-1899), and one from Delaware Senator
     Anthony Higgins (1889-1895).

F20  Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1885-1896 & n.d.  (6 items)
     Letters of application and reference addressed to various officers in the U.S. Engineers
     Office in Philadelphia, including H.H. Bingham, Matthew Stanley Quay, George H.
     Elliot, and Brigadier General T. L. Casey.

F21  Logbook, 1901-1909  (203 pp.)
     By the keepers of the New Castle Rear lighthouse, the book records daily meteorological
     conditions, as well as other notable events such as inspections.  From November 1905
     through the end of the logbook the keeper wrote his name in the upper margin, so that
     though there were at least three individuals to record data the names of only two are
     known for certain:  Thomas Wright, November 1895 to October 1896, and George W.
     Duncan, after October 1896.

F22  Logbook ephemera, c.1908-1909  (9 items)
     Items originally laid in the logbook.  Included are newspaper clippings; blank checks
     (from the Delaware City National Bank, and the National Bank of Wilmington &
     Brandywine); a receipt to G.W. Duncan from J.W. Pepper, manufacturer & importer of
     musical instruments (dated 1908); a postcard addressed to G.W. Duncan (dated
     September 1, 1908); and a telegram sent to Duncan via Western Union (dated July 5,

     Series III. Ephemera  (cont'd)

F23  Account Book, 1884-1905  (299 pp.)
     Kept as a quarterly accounting of expenditures by the U.S. Light-House Establishment. 
     Listed are all of the individuals and companies employed, the wages they were owed, and
     the projects on which they worked.  Also listed are the names of the officers in charge of
     the fiscal affairs of the Light-House Establishment during this period.  The account book
     is stored in an oversize box.

OS1  Plans, 1905  (9 plates)
     Plans of the U.S. Light-House Tender Sunflower, submitted to the Office of Light-House
     Board in March, 1905, and signed by U. Sebree, Capatain, U.S.N., Naval Secretary.  
     Initials are inscribed in the lower left corner of plates 1-8, and likely represent the
     drafters.  The prints were made by Andrew B. Graham Co., Lithographers, Washington
     D.C.  They are housed in the oversize map drawers.
     Plate 1
     Cross-sections of hull
     inscribed at lower left "S.A.S. / H.W.P."; 30 x 39"

     Plate 2
     Cross-sections of hull & details
     inscribed at lower left "S.A.S"; 30 x 39"

     Plate 3
     Plans of upper, lower, & main decks
     inscribed at lower left "W.J.L."; 30 x 39"

     Plate 4
     Plating on hold, upper & main decks;
     inscribed at lower left "R.R."; 30 x 39"

     Plate 5
     Inboard profile & plan of bridge
     inscribed at lower left "H.W.P."; 30 x 39"

     Plate 6
     Side view
     inscribed at lower left "R.R."; 30 x 39"

     Plate 7
     inscribed at lower left "R.R. / W.J.L. / H.W.P."; 30 x 39"

     Plate 8
     Boiler details
     inscribed at lower left "G.W. / R.R."; 30 x 39"

     Plate 9
     [Mechanical details]
     30 x 39"

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