Ray Jones is a leading authority on lighthouses and the author of more than 14 books and countless magazine articles on American history. He lives in Pebble Beach, California.
Levitt’s scientific and historical account, rich in anecdote and personality, brings to life the fascinating untold story of Augustin Fresnel and his powerful invention.
For more than two centuries, lighthouses have helped sailors find their way through treacherous waters, guiding them home or taking them safely through passages on their way to adventure. These historic towers and houses form a sparkling chain of lights along our coasts, a reminder of the past echoing with adventure and mystery, a lure for travelers looking for a glimpse into a romantic past.
Completely revised and updated, American Lighthouses offers more than just a tour of 450 beautiful and historic navigational beacons dotting the coasts and lakes of the United States. This fully illustrated, one-of-a-kind handbook details their history and architecture and provides full information on visiting or viewing them. Included are many endangered lights, threatened by erosion or lack of funding, as well as “ghost lights,” which are no longer standing.
Set against the backdrop of an expanding nation, Brilliant Beacons traces the evolution of America's lighthouse system from its earliest days, highlighting the political, military, and technological battles fought to illuminate the nation's hardscrabble coastlines. Beginning with "Boston Light," America’s first lighthouse, Dolin shows how the story of America, from colony to regional backwater, to fledging nation, and eventually to global industrial power, can be illustrated through its lighthouses.
Even in the colonial era, the question of how best to solve the collective problem of lighting our ports, reefs, and coasts through a patchwork of private interests and independent localities telegraphed the great American debate over federalism and the role of a centralized government. As the nation expanded, throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so too did the coastlines in need of illumination, from New England to the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, the Pacific Coast all the way to Alaska. In Dolin's hands we see how each of these beacons tell its own story of political squabbling, technological advancement, engineering marvel, and individual derring-do.
In rollicking detail, Dolin treats readers to a memorable cast of characters, from the penny-pinching Treasury official Stephen Pleasonton, who hamstrung the country's efforts to adopt the revolutionary Fresnel lens, to the indomitable Katherine Walker, who presided so heroically over New York Harbor as keeper at Robbins Reef Lighthouse that she was hailed as a genuine New York City folk hero upon her death in 1931. He also animates American military history from the Revolution to the Civil War and presents tales both humorous and harrowing of soldiers, saboteurs, Civil War battles, ruthless egg collectors, and, most important, the lighthouse keepers themselves, men and women who often performed astonishing acts of heroism in carrying out their duties.
In the modern world of GPS and satellite-monitored shipping lanes, Brilliant Beacons forms a poignant elegy for the bygone days of the lighthouse, a symbol of American ingenuity that served as both a warning and a sign of hope for generations of mariners; and it also shows how these sentinels have endured, retaining their vibrancy to the present day. Containing over 150 photographs and illustrations, Brilliant Beacons vividly reframes America's history.