Keeper's Duties

Keeper's Duties

What were the duties of the lighthouse keepers?

Before the days of electricity, they had to light the lamp at sunset and extinguish it (put it out) at sunrise. During an 8-hour watch at night they had to climb the stairs in the tower one to three times a night to check on the lamp and wind the weights. Some lighthouses have as many as two hundred steps! They earned the name "wickie" because one of the chores was to trim the burned lamp wick, so it wouldn?t smoke and dirty the lens. The brass in the building had to be shined, and all the windows cleaned. Often it took a whole day to clean and polish the lens alone. It was very important to keep both the lens and the lantern room windows clean so the light would not be lessened in any way.

Keeper and his family during the 1800?s

Working on the fog signal

Inspecting the Lens



A daily log had to be kept detailing everything from the weather to the amount of fuel consumed. The Keeper also had to tend to the mechanism used to operate the fog signal. During the year many items had to be painted. So the Keeper and his family were kept very busy.
 
The U.S. Lighthouse Society originally designed this packet to furnish teachers with basic information about lighthouses, their purpose, history, operation and technology in a form presentable to young students. with the society's permission the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office is posting this modified version with additional photographs and information.

The U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office would like to thank Mr. Wayne Wheeler and the other members of The U.S. Lighthouse Society who produced and distributed the original version of this curriculum.

For more information on lighthouses, teachers and students should contact The U.S. Lighthouse Society, 244 Kearny Street, San Francisco, Ca 94108 or consult the lighthouse web pages on The U.S. Coast Guard Historian's web site.