Many years ago I remember my mother telling me about one of her teachers in high school asking the question of the headline of this article on a test paper and how many of the students didn't know the answer. I must have heard that story a hundred times. So when I came across this photo in the archives of the American Lighthouse Foundation, I knew I had to do a brief story about it.
The old stereo view shows President William McKinley boarding a U. S. Revenue Cutter Service vessel at the time of the unveiling of Grant's Tomb.
It took twelve years to build Grant's Tomb. Over 90,000 people donated money to have it built. Over 1 million people showed up for the dedication in 1897. President McKinley was one of the principle speakers at the dedication.
McKinley was president during the 100-day war when the United States defeated the Spanish fleet outside Santiago Harbor in Cuba, seized Manila in the Philippines and occupied Puerto Rico. Thinking the nation was in an imperialistic mood he annexed the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States. During his second term in office he was shot twice while standing in line at the Buffalo (NY) Pan-America Exposition. As a result of those wounds he died eight days later and was succeeded by Teddy Roosevelt as president.
As I've said many times before, one can learn more about early American history by studying lighthouses than from any other source. So now you might be thinking, "What does all this have to do with lighthouses?" The answer is simple. The Revenue Cutter Service and the U. S. Life Saving Service were sister organizations to the U. S. Lighthouse Service and in 1915 the Revenue Cutter Service and Life Saving Service were merged, together to become the United States Coast Guard. In 1939 the Lighthouse Service was merged into the Coast Guard, which then became the admi-nistrator of our nation’s lighthouses and their history. So as you can see, it all ties together.
What we don't know is if the President was on the way to the unveiling or leaving the unveiling as this photo was taken. And we don't know the name of the Revenue Cutter vessel or the Revenue Cutter officer who was tipping his hat to the president as he boarded the vessel.
Perhaps one of our sleuth readers can help tell us the rest of the story.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2005 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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