Recently we have been fortunate to find a number of Life-Saving Service items including the two rare “tally boards” pictured.
When a rescue was to be performed using breeches buoy or life car, it was necessary to get a hawser aboard the vessel using the Lyle gun and a shot with small line attached. The small line was pulled aboard the stricken vessel until the seamen pulled aboard the tail block with the whip or endless line rove through it. Attached to the tail block would be this tally board with the following directions in English on one side and in French on the other: “Make the tale of the block fast to the lower mast well up. If the masts are gone, then to the best place you can find. Cast off the rocket line, see that the rope in the block runs free & show signal to the shore.” As soon as the signal was shown, then the hawser would be bent to the whip line and then hauled aboard the vessel to be made fast to the mast. This tally board is #1 and is of the earlier style, which are most difficult to find. Note the wording “rocket line”, which was taken from the English tally boards but was changed by the 1880’s to reflect the change from Cunningham rockets in use to the newly perfected Lyle gun. Also, the later boards were longer and had attached a lead weight to the end. This early style board measures 4” wide by 13 1/4” long by 1/2” thick. It was covered in black canvas upon which the directions are printed in white or gold.
Attached to the hawser would have been another tally board, which explained: “Make this hawser fast about two feet above the tail-block, see all clear and that the rope in the block runs free, and show signal to shore.” This later style board was similarly covered in black canvas upon which the directions are printed in white or gold. Board measures 4” wide by 21” long by 1/2” thick and has a lead weight attached to one end.
Both boards are extremely rare and can fetch up to $1,200 on the market.
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. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net
This story appeared in the
March 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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