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1. General Functions

The Lighthouse Service is charged with the establishment and maintenance of aids to navigation on the coasts and rivers of the United States and its territories. Its jurisdiction extends over the Atlantic, Gulf, Great Lakes, and Pacific Coasts, the principal interior rivers, and the outlying territories of the United States, except the Philippine Islands and the Canal Zone. In the Philippines, aids to navigation are maintained entirely by the Philippine government. The Canal Zone government has charge of the lighting of the canal and its approaches. On the American Samoan Islands and the island of Guam, and at Guantanamo, Cuba, the aids to navigation are maintained under the supervision of the naval commandants at the expense of the Lighthouse Service. The term "aids to navigation" comprises all land and sea marks for the purpose of aiding the navigation of vessels, and includes lighthouses and stations, lightships, fog signals, buoys of all kinds, minor lights, and day beacons. The Lighthouse Service has supervision over the establishment and maintenance of private aids to navigation and the lighting of bridges over navigable waters of the United States. Its jurisdiction over rivers not included in tidewater navigation is restricted to such streams as are specifically named in the various acts of Congress. However, these now include practically all of the important navigable rivers of the country.

2. History

By the Act of August 7, 1789,1 Congress authorized the maintenance of lighthouses and other aids to navigation at the expense of the federal government. At that time there were in operation along the Atlantic Coast twelve lighthouses, which had been erected and maintained by the several colonies. These, together with four others completed later, were ceded to the federal government by the states, and the maintenance of lighthouses and buoys was made the duty of the Treasury Department. Up to 1820 the service was directed by the Secretary of the Treasury, either in person or through an officer known as the Commissioner of Revenue. In 1820 its administration was imposed upon the Fifth Auditor of the Treasury, who became known as the General Superintendent of Lights. His duties with respect to the lighthouse establishment were put upon a statutory basis by the Act of March 3, 1845, and he continued to direct the service until its general reorganization in 1852.

In accordance with the terms of the Act of March 3, 1851,3 a board consisting of Army and Navy officers and civilian officers of scientific attainments made

11 Stat. 53. 25 Stat. 762. 39 Stat. 628, 629.

an inquiry, under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, into the condition of the Lighthouse Service. Its report was presented in 1852. As a result the Lighthouse Board was established by the Act of August 31, 1852,4 composed of the Secretary of the Treasury, as president ex officio, two Army officers, two Navy officers, and two technical civilian employees of the government, with a Navy officer and an Army officer as secretaries. This board, under the superintendence of the Secretary of the Treasury, was to have entire charge of the construction, maintenance and operation of lighthouses and other aids to navigation. Officers of the Army and the Navy were to be detailed to the several districts as lighthouse inspectors, and an Army Engineer was to be detailed to superintend construction and repair work.

The Lighthouse Service continued as thus constituted for over half a century.5 In 1903 it was transferred without change in organization to the Department of Commerce and Labor. In 1910 the Lighthouse Board was abolished, and the Bureau of Lighthouses was established in the Department of Commerce and Labor to take over its duties. The purposes of this change were to bring about a simpler organization, with more definite responsibility, and to place the Lighthouse Service upon a civil basis. Nevertheless, under the terms of the law, Army Engineer officers may still act as superintendents in the Mississippi river districts.

In the early history of the United States the work of the Lighthouse Service was confined to the maintenance of lights along the Atlantic Coast. Its jurisdiction has from time to time been extended, until it now maintains and operates lights and aids to navigation, not only on the Eastern and Western seacoasts of the United States, but on the Great Lakes, on the rivers of the United States, and on the coasts of all territories under the jurisdiction of the United States, with the exception of the Philippine Islands and the Canal Zone.

The following table shows the growth of the Lighthouse Establishment, by twenty-year periods and for the last completed year:


Lighted Aids.

Unlighted Aids.

Grand Total.

1800 1820 1840 1860 1880 1900 1920 1924

23 60 264 472 1,523 3,163 5,754 6,115

84 189


916 2,078 3,698

5,828 10,570 11,173

249 1,180 2,550 5,221 8,991 16,324 17,288

4 10 Stat. 119.

5 See Act July 7, 1838 (5 Stat. 292); Act March 3, 1859 (11 Stat. 421); Act July 15, 1870 (16 Stat. 309); Act March 3, 1873 (17 Stat. 511); Act June 22, 1874 (18 Stat. 201); Act June 23, 1874 (18 Stat. 220); Act June 16, 1880 (21 Stat. 263).

6 Act Feb. 14, 1903 (32 Stat. 826 [Comp. St. § 857]). See, for next five years' legislation, Act June 20, 1906 (34 Stat. 324); Act May 14, 1908 (35 Stat. 162); and Act May 28, 1908 (35 Stat. 428 [Comp. St. $ 7969]). 7 See Act June 17, 1910, c. 301 (36 Stat. 538).

3. Activities

In performing its duties, the Lighthouse Service co-operates with other branches of the government engaged in related work.8 Information affecting navigation charts is supplied to the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Lakes Survey Office of the War Department, the Navy Hydrographic Office, and the Mississippi River Commission, to be used in the correction or revision of charts. Weekly Notices to Mariners are issued, jointly with the Coast and Geodetic Survey. The Lighthouse Service co-operates with the Corps of Engineers of the Army 89 in establishing special aids to navigation in connection with river and harbor improvements, in marking river channels, and in lighting wrecks and other obstructions to navigation. It receives information with respect to deficiencies in aids from the Navy, the Coast Guard, the Coast and Geodetic Survey, and other maritime services of the government. It receives assistance from the Public Health Service in the sanitation of lighthouses, stations, and vessels; from the Bureau of Standards in the design of radio apparatus; from the Bureaus of Standards, Mines, and Chemistry in testing supplies, material, and equipment; from the Forest Service in the care of timber on lighthouse reservations ;10 from the Steamboat Inspection Service in the inspection of the steam plants of vessels, etc.

It receives information, also, from shipówners, mariners, and others interested in maintaining aids, and it receives and passes upon requests from maritime interests for the establishment of new lights and other aids, or the improvement of existing aids. 4. Organization and Distribution of Functions

The lighthouse establishment is organized as follows: (1) The Bureau of Lighthouses

(a) Office of the Commissioner.—(al) The Commissioner of Lighthouses? is the administrative head of the Bureau of Lighthouses. He directs and co-ordinates the work of the field force in the operation, maintenance, and repair of aids to navigation, and he enforces, with the approval of the Secretary of Commerce, rules and regulations governing the location, maintenance, and operation of aids to navigation. He receives and acts upon the reports of inspecting officers, and supervises the employment, promotion, transfer, or discharge of the personnel. He prepares and signs correspondence of an executive nature concerning the establishment, discontinuance, or removal of aids, the acquisition of real estate, new construction and repairs, and such other matters as require his personal attention.

(a2) The Deputy Commissioner of Lighthouses is the executive assistant to the Commissioner and acts in the latter's place when necessary. He is in immediate supervisory charge of the various divisions of the bureau.

(b) Office of the Administrative Assistant.—The Administrative Assistant supervises the administrative services of the Bureau of Lighthouses, including:

7 See Act June 17, 1910, c. 301 (36 Stat. 538). 8 Act Aug. 29, 1916 (39 Stat. 602 (Comp. St. 88 8459a, 8459b]). 9 Act June 20, 1918 (40 Stat. 608). 10 Act March 3, 1915 (38 Stat. 928).

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The Financial Division, the Law and Property Division, the Personnel Division, and the Files Division. In addition to his administrative duties, he assists in the preparation of correspondence not relating specifically to the work of any division. He prepares monthly reports describing the work of the service during the month, for submission to the Secretary of Commerce, and monthly “Service Bulletins” for distribution to the field service. His office receives incoming mail and distributes same throughout the office. It dispatches outgoing mail, and has charge of the bureau's library.

(61) The Financial Division keeps the books and accounts controlling the appropriations and allotments of the service. It prepares and examines the vouchers covering expenditures for the account of the bureau, before their payment by the disbursing officer of the department, and it audits the accounts of district disbursing agents covering disbursements made in the field. It formulates accounting rules, designs accounting forms for the field service, and prepares correspondence with the field service personnel relating to accounting matters. It prepares travel orders and requests for government transportation, and maintains files of invoices, bills of lading, correspondence, and other papers pertaining to the accounts of the service. It prepares the annual appropriation estimates for submission to Congress.

(b2) The Law and Property Division prepares, examines, and, with the approval of the Commissioner, authorizes the execution of contracts for the construction and equipment of lighthouses, lighthouse depots, and lightships, and for the procurement of supplies, materials, and services for the lighthouse districts. It prepares the contracts and deeds for the acquisition and disposal of land, and the leases for the rental of land on which lighthouses and lighthouse depots are to be established. It prepares supplemental agreements and releases, and the licenses issued by the bureau to private parties for the use of lands at lighthouse reservations. It drafts the legislation necessary in connection with the acquisition and disposal of lighthouse lands. It considers cases of alleged infraction of the laws and regulations relating to aids to navigation before notice is given to the Department of Justice.

This division supervises the procurement of the supplies and equipment required by the Lighthouse Service. It keeps the property records and the lists of unserviceable property, and examines the property returns submitted by accountable officers in the field. It maintains files of contracts, deeds, and licenses.

(b3) The Personnel Division conducts the routine correspondence relating to the appointment, promotion, transfer, and discharge of the employees of the bureau and the field service. For the use of the Commissioner, it makes recommendations for appointments to the bureau from civil service certificates, and for appointments to the field service from the nominations by district superintendents. It keeps the personnel records, prepares monthly reports of changes in personnel, and prepares the pay roll for transmission to the disbursing officer of the department through the Financial Division. It maintains files of all correspondence relating to personnel matters.

(b4) The Files Division maintains the files of all correspondence of the bureau, except personnel correspondence. It indexes and distributes incoming mail.

It indexes and files reports from field officers, keeping a record of offices which may be delinquent in the submission of the reports required by regulation.

(c) Engineering Construction Division.—The Engineering Construction Division, under the direction of the Chief Constructing Engineer, designs and prepares the plans for new buildings, apparatus and machinery for light stations, fog signal stations, and depots. It considers from an engineering standpoint the location and character of depots and fixed aids, and determines the extent of sites. It prepares the specifications and estimates for construction and important repair work. In the case of major projects, construction work, when practicable, is performed by contract, under the immediate supervision of an employee of the service detailed temporarily as Assistant Superintendent of Construction. Major repairs are made by Lighthouse Service construction forces in the field, while minor construction and repair work is performed by the regular station forces. The Engineering Construction Division arranges for the inspection and approval of the material and workmanship entering into the construction and repair of depots and fixed aids, for the periodical inspection of projects under way, and for the final inspection and approval of completed work. It makes recommendations on the engineering questions which arise in connection with the acquisition of lighthouse property, the preparation of contracts, the determination of the extent of damage to aids to navigation, the consideration of petitions for the establishment of new aids, and the purchase of supplies and equipment.

This division assists the Hydrographic Division, when called upon, in verifying and plotting upon charts the location of aids to navigation, bearings and distances; in correcting navigation charts, light lists, buoy lists, and notices to mariners; and in preparing charts and designs from rough drawings.

(d) Marine Engineering Division.—The Marine Engineering Division, under the Superintendent of Naval Construction, designs and prepares the plans for the construction or repair of all floating equipment of the Lighthouse Service, including tenders, lightships, and buoys. As in the case of fixed aids, new construction work is performed by contract, and repairs by employees of the Lighthouse Service. The Marine Engineering Division prepares the specifications and drawings for new vessels and their equipment, including engines, boilers, and machinery, and for buoys and their moorings and equipment. It supervises both construction and repair work through employees detailed temporarily as Assistant Superintendents of Construction.

The Division co-operates with other marine services of the Department of Commerce in the preparation of plans, specifications, and estimates for new vessels and for repair work.

(e) Hydrographic Division.—The Hydrographic Division, in charge of an assistant engineer, examines proposals for the establishment, discontinuance or removal of aids to navigation, whether fixed or floating, to determine in each case the necessity for and the location and character of the aid. On the basis of data furnished by the several lighthouse superintendents, it corrects and edits for publication light lists, buoy lists and notices to mariners. It verifies chart corrections suggested semiannually by the superintendents, to be used by the Coast and Geodetic Survey in the revision of nautical charts. It prepares for the Commissioner's signature correspondence relating to the matters under its jurisdiction.

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