The Lighthouse Act of 1789 was the first public works bill passed under the presidency of George Washington. As Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton personally administered lighthouses. Hamilton advocated for the federalization of lighthouses. They were part of a network that generated the first source of revenue for the new country.
Built in 1791, Portland Head Lighthouse was the first lighthouse completed under Washington. This may be one of the reasons why Portland Head Lighthouse is the “Most Photographed Lighthouse” in New England. It is also listed as one of the most iconic lighthouses on every conceivable list.
Portland Head’s Assistant Keeper, Mary Strout, helped with valiant rescues, cared and fed those injured at sea. Keepers fed those injured on meager salaries. Mary Strout was paid $480 annually. When the vessel Annie C. Maguire became shipwrecked, Mary tore up blankets into strips and made torches. She also prepared a delicious Christmas feast for the hungry crew.
“Shattering the Lens” an exhibit debuting Sept 24-October 20 at the National Lighthouse Museum in Staten Island, New York sheds light on the dynamic impact of female lighthouse keepers. The exhibit is inspired by the book “Women Who Kept the Lights” by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford.