All posts by Jason

What’s in a Collection? Grand Army of the Republic Button

In this blog post we are taking a closer look at an artifact recovered from archaeological investigations at the Lighthouse in 1996. The small object pictured is a domed brass button with the letter G, A and R artistically embossed on the surface.  The letter GAR refers to the Grand Army of the Republic.

Front face of the GAR button.


For those unfamiliar with this organization GAR was founded in Illinois, 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson.  The membership to this organization was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service that served during the Civil War.  While this was a national organization within it there was a hierarchy with “Departments” designated at the state level that were comprised  of local community groups called “Posts”.  Each post had its own number and often a name as well.  Confederate veterans also formed a similar organization referred to as the United Confederate Veterans.

Photo of an integrated chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic from Cazenovia, NY (photo from

These organizations served to help Civil War veterans.  They lobbied for pension plans, developed medical facilities and soldier’s homes for vets and preserved memories.  In St. Augustine, there were two GAR posts, H.W. Chatfield Post and John A. Logan Post.  The Logan Post was established by African-American Civil War veterans that served in the Union military.  GAR at its height around 1890 had over 400,000 members nationally.  Over time the organization declined and dissolved in the 1950s with the passing of the last members.  Records for these posts in St. Augustine are rather limited, but we do know they were active in the late 1800s into the early 20th century.

The GAR button was recovered from a test excavation unit, and more specifically known as “Feature 1.”  Features, archaeologically speaking, are physical elements created or modified by humans that are non-portable or stationary.  Common features include remnants of structure, drains, cisterns, fire pits, and trash pits.  In the case of Feature 1, the function was a trash pit.  Continue reading

What’s in a Collection? Stereographic Card

For this blog we chose to discuss an object that was recently donated to the museum.  This stereographic card is a new one for our collections, and the image was new to everyone on staff.



What is a stereographic card?

Stereographic cards or stereoviews were popular in the U.S. from mid-1800s until early 1920s.  They were extremely popular in the late 1800s.  The cards consist of two photographs of object or subject at slightly different angles.  The photographs were glued to cardboard with a slight separation between the images. To view the card one had to use a stereoscope which was very basic containing two prismatic lenses.  When the card is viewed through a stereoscope each picture is focused by a separate lens to each eye.

By separately magnifying each of the images, the process mimics what the eyes naturally do.  As a result the process creates depth perception or gives the appearance of seeing the subject in three dimensions.  Though the popularity of these cards dimensioned stereoscopes did not go away and probably several of us grew up with a View-master. Continue reading

What’s in a Collection? Sailmaker’s Palm

Our artifact highlight this month is an interesting example of some of our maritime heritage collection.  This object is referred to by several names such as a sailmaker’s palm, sewing palm or sailors palm thimble.  The multiple names are probably a reflection of the diverse audience that would actually use one.

Photo 2

Sailmaker’s palm is associated with the art of sail making.  This tool was important for sewing through tough material like leather and multiple layers of canvas.  This “specialized glove” would protect a person’s hand from the sewing needle.  The sailmaker’s palm would go over your whole hand with a hole for your thumb and a strap across the back of the hand to keep it in place.  Continue reading

What’s in a Collection? Tobacco Card

As a youth and avid collector of sports cards when you heard the words tobacco cards it was pretty exciting.  As a kid they were considered old and rarely seen as a lad in the Midwest.  These trading cards were from the turn of the century and featured some of the most famous sport figures at the time like Cy Young, Ty Cobb, and Jack Johnson.  However, tobacco cards or trading cards were not just strictly sport cards.

2012020001_frontIn the late 1800s, the tobacco industry started to include trading cards with their product as promotional material.  Several of these card series were educational and trivia filled.  Topics ranged from historic figures, actors/actresses, military leaders, biology and even lighthouses.

In our collections we have a tobacco card from 1889.   This particular card was part of the series Yacht Colors of the World (series N91).  Yacht Colors of the World was produced in three separate series, N91 was a set of 50 cards issued by W. Duke, Sons & Co. for Duke Brand cigarettes. The series featured several actors from the day modeling these various yacht club colors and featured the club flag as well. Continue reading

What’s in a Collection? U.S. Coast Guard Pin

Each month, we will be showcasing a different piece from our Museum collection. Outside of the artifacts on exhibition at the Lighthouse, we have hundreds of other historic pieces that are preserved in our collection.  

This small pin is a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) collar/hat pin.


The pin is a screw version as opposed to a clasp version made of brass.  The design has the USCG emblem and is consistent with pins that were worn during WWII.  This particular one is missing the back portion that would have kept it secure on the uniform more about this later in the story. Continue reading