Edward Rowe Snow, author, lecturer and historian, was born in Winthrop, Mass. and spent most of his life studying the lighthouses, islands, and legends of the New England coast. He descended from four generations of sea captains and has sailed the ocean as a seaman in the forecastle. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps at the outbreak of World War II and was in the African invasion, where he was wounded and transported to England to recover. After the war he taught history in local schools. Throughout his lifetime, his paramount interest has been the study of lighthouses, islands and the coastline of New England.
Mr. Snow has been credited with over 140 books and pamphlets as well as hundreds of newspaper articles, lectures, and tours of the area. His first books were The Islands of Boston Harbor, and Castle Island, both in 1935, beginning over 45 years of writing and publishing. Today his books are sought after by millions and many titles continue to be reprinted. With his wife Anna-Myrle and daughter Dorothy, Mr. Snow made hundreds of visits to light stations throughout New England. The Snows considered the light keepers and their families to be extensions of their own family, and the feelings were mutual. Today, many consider Mr. Snow’s interesting and readable accounts of life at these stations to have been the impetus launching an increase in lighthouse interest and preservation which continues today.
In 1929, Bill Wincapaw was piloting his floatplane toward Rockland, Maine when he became lost in a northeaster storm. Caught in a white-out, pilot Wincapaw flew lower and lower when he finally spotted the beam of Dice Head Light. Oriented by this beacon, he was then able to find his way home. That Christmas he loaded his plane with gifts and retraced his route, dropping gifts at Dice Head Light in thanks to the keeper who had saved his life. Mr Wincapaw and soon author Edward Rowe Snow would continue this tradition for many years after. Today the tradition continues through efforts by local groups to commemorate those early flights.
Over the years, we have attempted to compile a listing of Mr. Snow’s titles. Every year we find a few more that we weren’t aware of. Now and then we hear readers complain that Mr. Snow embellished his tales or that some of his tales are fiction. Mr. Snow did include many accounts of wrecks or horrors that had yet to be proven, but as years go by, more and more facts continue to surface and add credence to his many accounts. Undeniably, what Mr. Snow did accomplish was to bring New England maritime history to the forefront, and to put it into a readable and thoroughly enjoyable form that adults and children alike would come to enjoy.
I have listed below some of the 140 of Mr. Snow’s books and pamphlets and for those of you who are compiling a listing, over the next few months I will complete the listing for you. By then, we may have discovered yet another title to add to the list.
Latter Days Jonahs
Boston’s Greatest Heritage
The Bill of Rights Launching
They Hanged Her on Boston Common
The Bixby Letter
Days of Grandeur and Tragedy
Lizzie Bordon’s Confession
The Pilgrim’s Visit to Squaw Rock
Salisbury Beach Mystery
The White Mountains
The Pilot Sails Away
The Devil’s Disciple
The Flying Cloud. 1971
Cape Cod Under Fire
The Burning of Phillis
Christmas Eve at the Thatcher’s
Ghosts, Gales and Gold 1972
Mattapoisett, Marion and Wareham
Three Forts of Boston Harbor
Trips Around Casco Bay
Castle Island. 1935
Castle Island. 1971
Islands of Boston Harbor
Islands of Boston Bay
Great Atlantic Adventures
Pirates, Shipwrecks, and Phantoms Ghosts
Mansfield, A Brief History
Historic Fort Warren. 1941
The Islands of Boston Harbor 1935
The Story of Minot’s Light 1940
Next time, we will take a look more of the works of Edward Rowe Snow and answer a reader’s question. Please continue to send in your questions 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. In addition to authoring and publishing a number of books on the subject, Jim is the owner of Kenrick A. Claflin & Son Nautical Antiques. In business since 1956, he has specialized in antiques of this specialty since the early 1990’s. He may be contacted by writing to him at 30 Hudson Street, Northborough, MA 01532, or by calling 508-393-9814. You may also contact him by email: email@example.com or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net
This story appeared in the
June 2002 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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