Amy K. Marshall

Frequently Close To The Point Of Peril:  A History Of Buoys And Tenders In U.S. Coastal Waters 1789-1939.

(Under the direction of Professor John Tilley) Department of History, February 1998.

The purpose of this thesis is to provide insight into the establishment and administration of the many incarnations of the light house service of the United States, and demonstrate how changes in personalities involved as well as available technological advances were instrumental in providing the conduit for change in buoy and buoy tender designs.  While a number of authors have treated the subject of lighthouses, no secondary source has treated the history of minor aids to navigation, the class to which buoys belong.

The thesis chronicles the administrative changes of the light house service in the United States under the Fifth Auditor Stephen Pleasanton, the Light House Board, and, finally, the Light House Bureau under George Putnam in the early twentieth century.  The organization and personalities of the service are reflected in changes to minor aids to navigation as technological advances were applied to buoy and buoy tender designs and construction.  Nowhere is this correlation more pronounced then in the establishment of the Light House Board which included top scientists and physicists among its members, and the explosion of creative application of available technology for use in buoys and buoy tenders.

The thesis provides information and insight into a subject detailed only piecemeal elsewhere.  To understand aids to navigation and changes in the designs of buoys and buoy tenders, it is necessary to understand the administration of each incarnation of the lighthouse service and the personalities that shaped its policies.