US Coast Guard Birthday

Next Event Date: Saturday, August 04, 2018

The United States Coast Guard is this nation's oldest and its premier maritime agency.  The history of the Service is very complicated because it is the amalgamation of five Federal agencies.  These agencies, the Revenue Cutter Service, the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, and the Lifesaving Service, were originally independent, but had overlapping authorities and were shuffled around the government.  They sometimes received new names, and they were all finally united under the umbrella of the Coast Guard.  The multiple missions and responsibilities of the modern Service are directly tied to this diverse heritage and the magnificent achievements of all of these agencies.

One of the first acts of the young federal government was to provide for aids to navigation.  On 7 August 1789, the First Congress federalized the existing lighthouses built by the colonies and appropriated funds for lighthouses, beacons, and buoys.  Lighthouses generally reflect the existing technology of the time they were built. Each is also unique because their specific sites required special considerations.  The earliest Colonial and Federal lighthouses were built of stone and had walls up to seven feet thick.  Later advances allowed even taller structures made of brick.  Screw-pile structures, reinforced concrete towers, steel towers, and caisson structures all added to the rich and unique architecture.  

There have been more than 1,000 lighthouses built and they provided the main guidance to mariners into the main harbors of the United States.  For the first five decades there existed little bureaucracy, no tenders, only the lone keepers who kept the lights burning.  The administration of the lighthouses bounced from the Treasury Department to the Commerce Department and was transferred to the Coast Guard in 1939.