Finding Aid for Lighthouse Records in the National Archives

Most of the surviving lighthouse records are part of Record Group 26 (RG 26) in the National Archives, in downtown Washington, D.C.  RG 26 is divided into various entries. These are the entries I commonly use in my lighthouse research. Photographs and plans are located in Archives II in College Park, Maryland. For more on specific research topics search in my news blog on the home page.  ~ Candace Clifford

Categories

Early U.S. Light-House Establishment, 1789 – 1852

Entry 17 (NC-31)
CORRESPONDENCE RELATING TO EARLY LIGHTHOUSES, 1785-1853

17A. LETTERS RECEIVED BY THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT, 1785-1812

17C. LETTERS RECEIVED FROM SUPERINTENDENTS OF LIGHTS, 1803-52 (organized by port)

17D. SUPERINTENDENT OF LIGHTS REPLIES TO CIRCULARS, 1830-38

17E. LETTERS RECEIVED FROM WINSLOW LEWIS, 1811-44 (Box 1 contains letters from Supt. of Lights, Boston, Philip Greeley, 1849-51 and Winslow Lewis, 1810 – 1825 (Includes proposals, oil contracts, reports of lighthouses, sale of patent, fitting up light stations, and building towers) Box 2 contains letters from Winslow Lewis, 1826 – 1851)

17F. MISCELLANEOUS LETTERS RECEIVED (ALPHABETICAL), 1801-52 (Box 1: A – D, 1813 – 1853; Box 2: E – H, 1806 – 1853; Box 3: I – N, 1800 – 1853; Box 4: O – S, 1816 – 1852; Box 5: S – Z, 1807 – 1853)

17G. MISCELLANEOUS LETTERS RECEIVED (NUMERICAL), 1801-52 (Box 1: 1784 – 1799; Box 2: 1800 – 1814; Box 3: 1815 – 1820; Box 4 1821 – 1825; Box 5: 1826 – 1827; Box 6: 1830 – 1839; Box 7: 1840 – 1849;  Box 8: 1850 – 1852; Box 9: 1853 – 1910)

17H. DRAFT COPIES OF LETTERS SENT, 1813-52 (drafts of Pleasonton correspondence, 1820 -1852)

17I. CORRESPONDENCE RELATING TO THE APPOINTMENT OF LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS, 1801-52

17J. RECORDS RELATING TO LIBRARY OF CONGRESS EXHIBIT, 1785-1852

17K. LETTERS RECEIVED FROM THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, 1830-52 (Mostly keeper appts. early on; interests expand with time; early USLHB material)

Entry 18 (NC-31)
LETTERS SENT REGARDING THE LIGHT-HOUSE SERVICE, 1792-1852 (Copies of correspondence from USLHE arranged chronologically)

Entry 35 (NC-31)
“LIGHT-HOUSE LETTERS,” Series P, 1833-64 (Box 1: July 1833 – November 1837; Box 2: 1843; Box 3: March 1838 – June 1839; Box 4: 1844 – 1848; Box 5: 1849; Box 6: 1850; Box 7: 1850 – 1851; Box 8: 1860 – 1861, 1862 – 1864)

Entry 45 (NC-31)
MISCELLANEOUS MATERIAL RECEIVED BY THE FIFTH AUDITOR, 1812-52
Includes newspaper advertisements, proposals/bids, receipts, contracts, and petitions for lighthouses (Box 1: Copies of advertisements soliciting proposals from newspapers, 1812 – 1847; Box 2: Advertisements, 1848 – 1854; Box 3: Proposals, bids, & some letters from the Secy of Treasury, 1811 – 1836; Box 4: Proposals & bids, 1837 -1855; Box 5: Petititons for lighthouses, 1819 – 1854 and Lighthouse appropriations, 1809 – 1842)

U.S. Light-House Board, 1852 – 1910

Entry 13
CLIPPINGS RELATING TO LIGHT-HOUSES, ca. 1800-1939 (Excerpts from USLHB annual reports arranged by light station under district)

Entry 38 (NC-31)
LIST OF GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, 1791-1900
(Alpha index of correspondence received by the USLHB.  Originals are bound in letterbooks, many of which were destroyed in a 1920s fire. I have digitized some of the damaged letterbooks that cannot be pulled.  They are available on CD in the downtown D.C. National Archives finding aids room.)

Entry 1 (NC-31)
JOURNAL OF THE LIGHT-HOUSE BOARD, May 20, 1851 – January 1, 1908
(28 volumes arranged chronologically, most have index)

Entry 9 (NC-31)
REPORTS SUBMITTED TO THE BOARD BY COMMITTEES, 1874-1900
21 boxes 

Entry 20 (NC-31)
LETTERS SENT BY THE LIGHT-HOUSE BOARD, October 1852-January 1897
Includes letters to Superintendents of Construction, other agencies, Board members, etc. (No indexes in volumes; press copies are bound in volumes with indexes and stored in boxes) 

Entry 23 (NC-31)
LETTERS SENT TO DISTRICT INSPECTORS AND ENGINEERS, October 1852-July 1910 (Early correspondence copied into volumes, arranged by district; later correspondence consists of press copies in boxes) 

Entry 24 (NC-31)
LETTERS RECEIVED FROM DISTRICT ENGINEERS AND INSPECTORS, ca. 1853-1900 (Reflected in Entry 38 index; many volumes were destroyed in 1922 fire at the Commerce Department) 

Entry 26 (NC-31)
LETTERS SENT TO SUPERINTENDENTS OF LIGHTS, 1853-1894
(Letters from Naval Secy. primarily concerning personnel and purchases)

Entry 30 (NC-31)
MISCELANEOUS LETTERS SENT, 1851 – 1853, July 1874 – June 1910
(Letters from the USLHB to non-employees; includes lens orders under “illuminating apparatus” in indexes, and letters to contractors)

Entry 31 (NC-31)
LETTERS SENT TO SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, 1852 – 1908
(Letters to the Secy. of the Treasury from the Chairman of the Light-House Board and the USLHB Naval & Engineering Secretaries.  Volumes for early years and bound press copies for later years)

Entry 32 (NC-31)
LETTERS SENT BY TREASURY DEPARTMENT & U.S. LIGHT-HOUSE BOARD, APRIL 1851 – FEB. 1907
(There is a gap between June 1877 and July 1905. Includes letters to district engineers & inspectors, Secy. of the Treasury, and letters regarding keeper nominations / applications, some early volumes are labelled “P Series”, some volumes are entirely keeper appointment letters, later volumes are indexed)

Entry 48 (NC-31)
CORRESPONDENCE OF THE LIGHT-HOUSE BOARD, January 1, 1901-June 6, 1910
(Organized by file number, see Entry 51 1901 -1910 index)

Entry 63 (NC-31), now entry 6 (A-1)
DESCRIPTIVE LISTS OF LIGHTHOUSE STATIONS, 1858-1889, 1876-1939 – box list  (Most pamphlets have been inputed by the Cheseapake Chapter into a database that is now available on the U.S. Lighthouse Society website)

Entry 71 (NC-31)
DESCRIPTION OF LIGHTHOUSES ca. 1900
(One volume; two pages devoted to each lighthouse from Maine through New Jersey; provides dates of repairs, Lat / Long, lens characteristic, lens order, height, focal plane, daymark characteristics, when established, when rebuilt, compass range of visibility, and remarks)

U.S. Bureau of Lighthouses, 1911-1939

Entry 50 (NC-31)
CORRESPONDENCE OF THE BUREAU OF LIGHT-HOUSES, January 1911-December 1939
(Organized by file number, see Entry 51 – 1911 -1939 index)

Entry 13 (NC-31)
BULLETINS OF THE LIGHTHOUSE BUREAU, 1912 – 1939 (Four-page bulletin was issued monthly by the Bureau; 6 boxes of all issues)

U.S. Coast Guard, 1939 – present

Entry 82 (A-1)
USCG General Correspondence (Four parts, three parts correspond to a specific time period; fourth part consists of station files; arranged according to subject files) — Archivist Mark Mollan has created these box lists for each time period: 

USCG General Correspondence 1910-35 Part 1

USCG General Correspondence 1910-35 Part 2

USCG General Correspondence 1936-41

USCG General Correspondence 1942-53 Part 1

USCG General Correspondence 1942-53 Part 2

Entry 99 (A-1)
USCG BOARDS OF SURVEY – REAL ESTATE, 1945 -1980
(Includes form describing station property; shelved in two locations – arranged by state — see box list in reference room)

Entry 100 (A-1) MIXED BOARDS OF SURVEY
(Concerns portable property items such as boats, etc.; arranged by station name)

Entry 186 (A-1)
UNIT WAR DIARIES, 1942-45 (arranged by District – issued every two weeks by district office – includes some operational and personnel material)

Entry 281
USCG NARRATIVE HISTORIES, WWII, 1941-45
Overall history and histories completed by each district office

Entry 381 (A-1)
STATION FILES, 1941 – 77

Entry 401 (A-1)
BOARDS OF SURVEY – GREENSPUN, EVANS, KENNER, 1946 – 1949
(Studies to disestablish or automate stations)

Entry 403 (A-1)
SHORE UNITS DIVISION CORRESPONDENCE, 1920 – 1958
Archivist Mark Mollan’s box list – Shore Units Division Correspondence

Miscellaneous

Entry 122 (NC-31)
DEEDS AND CONTRACTS FOR LIGHTHOUSES AND SITES, 1790 – 1853, 1911 – 39 (Volumes start in 1790; boxes for 1911 – 1939)

Entry 5 (A-1)
LIGHT-HOUSE SERVICE PUBLICATIONS, 1838-1942
Published Light Lists (starting in 1838) and Notice to Mariners (starting in 1852)

Entry 16 (NC-31)
MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS, 1816-1929, 1918-36 (see box list in reference room)

Entry 66 (NC-31)
LIGHTHOUSE SITE FILES, 1790-1939 (see box list in reference room)

Entry 7 (UD)
LIGHTHOUSE WORK ORDERS ca. 1875-1922 (Box 1: Districts 1 – 3; Box 2: Districts 3 – 5; Box 3: Districts 5 – 10; Box 4: Districts 10 – 13; Box 5: Districts 13 – 18)

Entry 454 (A-1)
STATION HISTORY FILES (ca. 1890 – 2001)

Entry 59 (NC-31)
RECORDS CONCERNING ILLUMINATING APPARATUS, 1839 – 60, 1876 -78, 1880 – 81 (Includes invoices, in French, from manufacturers, primarily for 1850s)

Entry 200 (NC-31) Proposals for Various Types of Lighthouses (Construction Specifications) 1848 – 1909

Field Records

Entry 1 (NC-63)
RECORDS OF THE THIRD LIGHT-HOUSE DISTRICT (NEW YORK), 1854-1939

Entry 3 (NC-63)
RECORDS OF THE FIFTH LIGHT-HOUSE DISTRICT (BALTIMORE), 1851-1912

Entry 58 (A-1)
RECORDS OF THE SIXTH LIGHT-HOUSE DISTRICT (CHARLESTON, S.C.) 1867 – 1911

Entry 5 (NC-63)
RECORDS OF THE SEVENTH & EIGHTH LIGHT-HOUSE DISTRICTS (KEY WEST, MOBILE, & NEW ORLEANS), 1850-51, 1867-1940

Entry 6 (NC-63)
RECORDS OF THE NINTH LIGHT-HOUSE DISTRICT (CHICAGO), 1886-1905
(Includes letters from keepers to district inspector) 

Entry 8 (NC-63)
RECORDS OF THE 12TH LIGHT-HOUSE DISTRICT, (SAN FRANCISCO) 1871 – 1913

Entry 15 (UD)
MISCL. FIELD RECORDS RELATING TO 2ND & 13TH LIGHTHOUSE DISTRICT ca. 1873 – 1901

Logbooks

The National Archives has created an online finding aid for logbooks in RG 26 that include the following entries. (Note there is some overlap between Entry 80 and Entry 159.):

Entry 80 (NC-31)
LIGHTHOUSE STATION LOGS, 1872-1947

USCG LIGHTHOUSE LOGS, 1942 – 47
Entry 159-D 1942
Entry 159-E 1943
Entry 159-F 1944
Entry 159-G 1945
Entry 159-H 1946
Entry 159-I 1947

Entry 330 and Entry P-65 cover USCG Lighthouse Station Logs, 1948-1970

Entry (UD) 31 Logs of Journals Related to Misc. Ships and Stations 1886 – 1947

Keepers

“Registers of Lighthouse Lighthouse Keepers, 1845 – 1912”, Microfilm Publication M1373

Entry 87
NOMINATIONS FOR EMPLOYEES OF THE USLHB, 1865 – 1907
(Volume 1: 1865 -1871; Volume 3: 1871 – 1881; Volume 4: 1888 – 1893; Volume 5: 1894 – 1904; Volume 6: 1904 – 1907)

Entry 100 (NC-31)
LIST OF LIGHTHOUSE APPOINTMENTS, 1831 – 1860 (2 volumes)

Entry 101 (NC-31)
RECORD OF SALARIES OF LIGHT-HOUSE KEEPERS, 1801 – 49, 1881 – 1912

Entry 106 (NC-31)
RECORD OF THE APPOINTMENT OF LIGHT-HOUSE KEEPERS, 1817 – 1903

Entry 111 (NC-31)
RECORD OF RECLASSIFICATION OF LIGHT-HOUSE KEEPERS SALARIES, 1922-28 (Includes job description written by each keeper- Box 1: 1st -5th Districts (none for 2nd District); Box 2: 6th – 9th Districts; Box 3: 10th – 11th; Box 4: 12th – 17th Districts; Box 5: 18th – 19th Districts)

Entry 118 (NC-31)
PROCEEDINGS OF BOARD FOR INDUCTION OF THE LIGHT-HOUSE EMPLOYEES INTO THE COAST GUARD, 1939-40

Entry 7 (A-1)
RETIREMENT RECORD CARDS, 1907-51 (includes lighthouse personnel who served after 1939); 9 boxes – alpha by name

Entry 105a (NC-31)
REGISTER OF [OTHER] LIGHTHOUSE EMPLOYEES, 1871-1906 (clerks, superintendents, assistant engineers, lampists, etc.; second volume devoted to vessel masters, mates, and engineers) 8 volumes

For keeper correspondence gathered from Entries 82, 16, 17I, 85, and 259, the National Archives has shared a database it put together. I have modified it to a searchable PDF format — National Archives RG 26 Personnel

See blog post for more information on researching keepers.

Tenders

Boxes 25 -27 of the LIGHTHOUSE CLIPPING FILES are devoted to tenders

The USLHB correspondence index (Entry 38) has more than 6 inches of slips referencing tenders in boxes 176 – 177

Entry 9 (NC-63) RECORDS OF THE SEVENTEENTH LIGHT-HOUSE DISTRICT (PORTLAND) 1909-1922 (3 volumes of correspondence relating to tenders)

Lighthouses in Other Record Groups

RG 217 – Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury – Archivist Mark Mollan has prepared this finding aid for lighthouse records in RG 217 – Lighthouses in RG 217

RG 77 – Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers

RG 36 – Records of the U.S. Customs Service of Commerce

RG 40 – Records of the Department of Commerce

RG 49 – Records of the General Land Office

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