Digest>Archives> February 2003

Collecting Nautical Antiques

Recent Finds

By Jim Claflin


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Recently, we received some photos from Jeff Shook of the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy showing a wonderful Life-Saving Service item that he recently came across. In 1893 the World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago to present the latest advancements in technology, architecture and American progress to the populace and to the world. As was the practice, the government exhibit included the latest advances in the Life Saving Service, Light-House Service and other agencies. In fact, at this exhibit a complete life-saving station of a modified Quonochontaug design was constructed and manned for visitors to tour and view the latest advances in the field. Station crews performed tri-weekly surfboat drills which drew large crowds and became a highlight of the fair. After the exposition closed, this station would remain in service as the Jackson Park Life-Saving Station. The men assigned to this station were apparently issued the identification badge shown, which Jeff was fortunate to find. This is a beautiful piece and probably one of the few in existence. Thanks Jeff for sending in your photo. For wonderful reading on life-saving station design and architecture, you will want to read: Shanks, Ralph, Wick York, Lisa Woo Shanks, editor. THE U. S. LIFE-SAVING SERVICE - HEROES, RESCUES AND ARCHITECTURE OF THE EARLY COAST GUARD. 1996. Petaluma, CA. 262p.

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Another nice find is a large 8” dial U.S. Light House Establishment wall clock recently found by Andy Demeter. Andy is a clock expert and is the historian for the Chelsea Clock Company, supplier of high quality timepieces to the government for many years. The clock is particularly unusual for its large 8” dial size. Most brass wall clocks that we find have dials in the 4 1/2” to 6” range, making this piece extremely rare. Andy notes that: “This marine clock case was cast in red brass and was manufactured by the Starr Brass Company of Boston. We believe it originally housed a Boston Clock Company movement manufactured between 1884-1894 based on the configuration of the dial. Since this clockmaker went out of business in 1894, they ceased being a supplier to the USLHE. A replacement movement was ordered from the Chelsea Clock Company in August of 1913. Unlike other sales in Chelsea’s Sales Ledgers that are typically written as sold to the “U.S. Lighthouse Establishment” or “U.S. Lighthouse Depot, Staten Island” this particular entry says the movement [serial number 26508] was sold on 8/15/13 to the “U.S. Lighthouse Inspector.” Two additional entries indicate the movement was repaired in 1916 and 1931. This original silvered dial has turned to a dull gray while the case has been polished and lacquered. It has impressive Roman Numeral engraving and cross-hatch shadows that offer a dimensional depth to the letters “U.S.L.H. Estab.” It is an impressive piece.” Thanks Andy for sharing this with us.

Next time, we will take a look some more unusual recent finds. Please continue to send in your questions and photos on the subject or a photograph of an object that you need help dating or identifying. We will include the answer to a selected inquiry as a regular feature each month in our column.

Jim Claflin is a recognized authority on antiques of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Life-Saving Service, Revenue Cutter Service and early Coast Guard. IJim is the owner of Kenrick A Claflin & Son Nautical Antiques. He may be contacted by writing to him at 1227 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602, or by calling 508-792-6627. You may also contact him by email: jclaflin@lighthouseantiques.net or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net

This story appeared in the February 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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