Digest>Archives> Jul/Aug 2011

Wickie’s Wisdom

National Lighthouse Day - It’s Time to Make It Official

By Timothy Harrison


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Portland Head Light, Maine, photo by Melanie Dabb.

All across the United States, lighthouse groups large and small will celebrate August 7 as National Lighthouse Day. However, technically, it is still not an official day as recognized by the United States of America.

The date originates from August 7, 1789 when the First Congress of the United States, approved what was essentially the federalization of all lighthouses in the United States.

However, it wasn’t until the approaching 200th anniversary of the signing of what is known as The Lighthouse Act by President George Washington that the 100th Congress of the United States passed and approved a joint resolution that became Public Law 100-622, which specifically designated August 7, 1989 as National Lighthouse Day.

The real key here is in the wording, which only designated August 7 in the year of 1989 as National Lighthouse Day, and did not authorize that date to be so designated in future years. The exact words at the end of the joint resolution read as follows:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the day of August 7, 1989 is designated as “National Lighthouse Day;” that to the extent feasible, lighthouse grounds should be open to the general public, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon people of the United States to observe such a day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

Approved, November 5, 1988

What Congress needs to do is to either to pass a new Public Law that designates August 7 of every year as National Lighthouse Day or to add an amendment to Public Law 100-622 that states that August 7 in every year hereafter is National Lighthouse Day.

Granted, a few things have changed since then, such as the passing of the National Lighthouses Preservation Act of 2000 that authorized the giving away of Coast Guard lighthouses to other government entities and qualified nonprofits, and if none of them wanted a specific lighthouse that had been declared excess property, the lighthouse could be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Who owns specific lighthouses is totally irrelevant to whether or not Congress should declare August 7 in all future years as National Lighthouse Day.

I realize that, with all the turmoil in the world and our country today, this may seem somewhat insignificant to some. However, it is important to remember that the lighthouses and the people who served at them played a significant and vital role in the development of our nation. Making August 7 as an official date every year would help draw attention to lighthouse history, and directly and indirectly assist the many people working so hard to preserve the lighthouses and their history.

I urge everyone to write, call, or e-mail their members of Congress in Washington, D.C. and ask them to make August 7 as National Lighthouse Day each and every year.

Timothy Harrison

Editor & Publisher

Lighthouse Digest

P.O. Box 250

East Machias, ME 04630


This story appeared in the Jul/Aug 2011 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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