National Lighthouse Day

The United States Lighthouse Society is a strong supporter of National Lighthouse Day, an annual commemoration of the anniversary of the federal lighthouse establishment and a day to celebrate lighthouses and the commitment and service of those who tended America’s lights for generations.

For the bicentennial of the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1989, the Society petitioned Congress to declare National Lighthouse Day on August 7 -- the date in 1789 that the Ninth Act of the First Congress, establishing federal control of lighthouses, was passed and signed by President George Washington. Sen. John H. Chaffee of Rhode Island sponsored the joint resolution, which was championed in the House by Rep. William J. Hughes of New Jersey, and the measure was signed by President Ronald Reagan as Public Law 100-622 on Nov. 5, 1988.

But that designation only established the day for 1989. Another similar declaration was won in 2013 thanks to a Senate Resolution, but efforts to add the day to the official national calendar have not yet succeeded. The lighthouse law should be remembered as an altruistic act of the nation and the first public works program undertaken by the new federal government. The first members of Congress thought the bill so important that they passed the measure even before they got around to establishing pay for congressmen!

Currently, House of Representative rules dating to the 1990s forbid members from submitting such legislation, effectively blocking full congressional passage. Despite intense efforts in 2014, President Barack Obama did not respond to requests to designate the anniversary date via Executive Order.

The legislative effort continues, strongly supported by this Society and spearheaded by American Lighthouse Council members Don Terras, Mike Vogel and Tim Harrison, who had been crusading for the designation on his own for the past 20 years.

Meanwhile, all lighthouse organizations across the country are encouraged to celebrate each August 7 as National Lighthouse Day, “official” or not. Many already do. It’s a perfect day for lighthouse tours, programs and activities, and a fitting way to commemorate a vitally important part of America’s rich maritime heritage.

Photo: Tim Harrison, editor of Lighthouse Digest, holds a framed copy of Senate Resolution 507 declaring August 7, 2013, "National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day"

Return to Lighthouse Festivals & Events