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Lighthouse fans and photography aficionados! Allow us to navigate you to a completely digitized series of Coast Guard lighthouse photographs: 26-LG: Lighthouses, 1855 -1933.

Black and white photograph of the construction of the St. George Reef Light station in California, 1892
Photograph of the Construction of the St. George Reef Light Station in California, 1892. National Archives Identifier 7682787

The photographs, Coast Guard records that were originally taken by the Lighthouse Board and Lighthouse Service, document a fascinating period of U.S. Lighthouse history as well as the development of photographic technology. 

Because they were taken between 1855 and 1933, the Albumen, Collodion, Gelatin-Silver Printing Out, and Gelatin-Silver Developing Out photographic processes are all represented in the series. There are also a few Cyanotypes. Most of the photographic prints were mounted, and mounts often contain caption information that was transcribed during the digitization process.

Cyanotype of Esophus Island, New York
Image of Esophus Island, New York

Images (Including Cyanotypes) of Esophus Island, New York
L: National Archives Identifier 45692947
R: National Archives Identifier 45692951

26-LG: Lighthouses, 1855 -1933 is completely digitized and available to view and download in the National Archives Catalog. The series was arranged by district number with each district corresponding to a geographic area. Within these districts, photos were then arranged in loose alphabetical order according to the name of the lighthouses. This arrangement is reflected in our Catalog, where the file units are listed geographically.

To browse for photographs by location, navigate to the 26-LG series description and click on the link: “1125 file unit(s) described in the catalog.” This will take you to a list of file units within the series, grouped by location. When you select the location that interests you, the file unit description will provide you access to the images you wish to see. For example, if you click on “Maine — Egg Rock,” you will see a page that contains specific information about the photos of Egg Rock in Maine. Typically there will be nothing extraordinary here. However, you can see that there are 7 Egg Rock, Maine images described in the Catalog. By clicking on either “7 item(s) described in the catalog” or the “Search within this file unit” button, you will be able to access all 7 Egg Rock, Maine photos at once.

Images of Egg Rock, Maine
Images of Egg Rock, Maine

Images of Egg Rock, Maine
L: National Archives Identifier 18237567
R: National Archives Identifier 18237561

To search the entire series by keyword, begin at the 26-LG series description, and select the “Search within this series” button. This will take you to a page where you can search every image in 26-LG at once using keywords in the search bar. You will see the wildcard symbol *:* is already in the search bar at the top of the page. This is very important – it tells the Catalog to only look at records within the series you have selected. If you know the name of the lighthouse or location you are looking for, remove the wildcard symbols and type the name in the search bar. 

For example, if you wish to look for Egg Rock photos, remove the wildcard symbol and type in “Egg Rock”. This will take you to all the photos in 26-LG related to Egg Rock. It is important to notice that your search results using this method will often be different – there is an Egg Rock in Massachusetts as well as in Maine, and using the keyword “Egg Rock” returns photos from both locations.

Images of Egg Rock, Massachusetts
Images of Egg Rock, Massachusetts

Images of Egg Rock, Massachusetts
L: National Archives Identifier 45691499
R: National Archives Identifier 45691501

The digital images from 26-LG were scanned at high resolution and may be downloaded directly from our Catalog. They are not subject to copyright. We hope you enjoy these images as much as we do, and we encourage you to share your favorites with us!

Today’s post comes from Kelsey Noel, currently a supervisory archivist in the Accessioning and Basic Processing Section at the National Archives. Read the full post on the Unwritten Record blog.

Up for some coloring? Try our Lighthouses Coloring book!  

You can learn more about these incredible photographs in a Know Your Records presentation by Kelsey Noel, former processing archivist in the National Archives Still Picture Branch.

Citizen Archivist Missions

New Mission: The Mission Indian, 1932-1941

Help us transcribe issues of "The Mission Indian," a newsletter issued by the Mission Agency. Typical issues contain a news section which lists events that took place on the reservations under the Agency's jurisdiction, agricultural information, a health section, and a women's page written by the Field Nurse. Get started transcribing.

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Our mission invites you to transcribe and tag records related to the Chinese Exclusion Era. We need your transcribing these immigration records and tagging very specific details that will help provide greater access to these records. 

Please read the instructions on the mission page carefully and begin contributing

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