Category Archives: Collections

During the season of giving, Junior Service League of St. Augustine donated $9k to St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

Group of JSL members
Donation important now more than ever as WWII Barracks restoration project is delayed and looking for more donors to jumpstart the restoration process this year

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – On December 27th, the outgoing president of the Junior Service League of St. Augustine (JSL), Katey Anderson, presented a check for $9k to the Museum. It is a continuation of a supportive partnership created over thirty-five years ago with the initiation of a “Save the Lighthouse” restoration project. Then, the property was a burned out Keepers’ House and a Lighthouse monitored by an off-site Lightkeeper. Kathy Shetler, Margaret Van Ormer and Lorri Lassiter were JSL members who helped initiate the project to restore the Keepers’ House which cost $1 million. Now they serve on the Museum’s Board of Trustees and have been involved in the Museum’s growth. Lassiter says, “Throughout the years I have watched with amazement and pride as the Museum has grown and evolved…currently restoring the World War II Barracks and having recently built the beautiful new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center which brings the Museum’s programs even closer to the public.”

Prior to this donation, the JSL contributed funds for and received naming rights to an archaeologist’s office within the new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center, completed in September of last year. This most recent donation was specifically given for use by the collections department at the Museum which will foster continued preservation and storytelling of the history and the role the JSL has played in ensuring the preservation of the Lighthouse over the years. Van Ormer adds, “It never occurred to us that we would not be successful in this challenge.”

Group of JSL members
From (L) to (R) in background: ED Kathy Fleming, Lorri Lassiter, Judy Burnett Albright, Theresa Floyd, Margaret Van Ormer, Kathy Shetler. In front: Dr. Holly Sheets.

Since the time of this donation, another restoration project – the WWII Barracks – slated to begin early this year, incurred a setback due to a reordering of a grant awardees list drafted by the state’s Historical Resources Commission. The Museum Executive Director Kathy Fleming doesn’t worry, as she says, “Just as we’ve rallied together before and have a history of doing so, we will do the same again and another compassionate and caring group of people will come forward to bring this project to life”. Longtime volunteer and Trustee Emeritus Judy Albright echoes that sentiment saying, “When you think of our ages, from when we were active until now, we still care enough to be active sustainers, it says volumes. We still love the project we undertook back in the early 80s [restoring the Keepers’ House] and decided to be more active by becoming Trustees [of the Museum]. A great testament to the Museum and why we felt it would be a light for the community then and now!”

The Museum would like to thank Katey for her incredible leadership this past year which helped to make this donation possible, as well as all the ladies past and present who have been instrumental in both organizations in keeping the light on for our community. Without their initial dedication to the cause and the continued determination to sustain the partnership between the two organizations, the Museum staff says its work would be made much more difficult to sustain. They would also like to recognize the people who have been involved with both organizations over the last few years, helping to facilitate and maintain this active partnership: Judy Burnett Albright, Kathy Fleming, Theresa Floyd, Lauren Goedelman, Barb Holland, Lorri Lassiter, Kelcie Lloyd, Holly Sheets, Kathy Shetler, Margaret Van Ormer and Loni Wellman.

The story of the JSL saving the Keepers’ House from destruction and opening as a maritime Museum is on display in the Visitors Center as a permanent exhibition. As part of the Museum, the Visitors Center is open to the visiting public during normal Museum operating hours of 9 AM – 6 PM daily. For more information about the WWII Barracks restoration and how you can help, please contact Michelle Adams at

A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (

The Junior Service League of St. Augustine, Inc. is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of its members for volunteer participation in community affairs and demonstrating the effectiveness of trained volunteers within St. Johns County. The Junior Service League of St. Augustine, Inc. reaches out to women of all races, religions, and national origins who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to volunteerism. The League began in 1935 as a group of dedicated women who came together to address civic, social and cultural needs in the Nation’s Oldest City.

American Alliance of Museums Accreditation

Last year, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum sent in an application to become an accredited museum with the American Alliance of Museums.

Our Museum is working toward accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums.

The AAM has brought museums together for over a hundred years. They have assisted with the development of standards and best practices, gathering and sharing of knowledge, as well as been a catalyst for museum advocacy.

Being an accredited AAM museum is national recognition of your museum’s commitment to excellence and highest professional standards with regards to museum operation and public service.

In the United States, accreditation is one of the highest honors a museum can receive, and only around 1,000 museums are accredited.  Additionally, accreditation provides access to more resources to better serve the public trust through our mission to preserve the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port. Continue reading

What’s in a Collection? A Comical Chain Letter

Send this to 20 friends and the Lighthouse will get a pony for every share…

We have all gotten those emails asking us to “continue the chain.”

Written inside is a funny story that, if shared, will bring you luck, love, or money. However, if you break the chain you will be met with opposite results.  You might lose a shoe or your crush will never speak to you again. Though for the vast majority of us we take a look and then delete or depending on how funny it was we may send it to the next group. It has become a silly superstition that we share to brighten someone’s day. Though a century ago this was not the case.

In the summer of 1888, a school in Chicago decided to send out letters asking for support. The recipient of the letter was to send them a dime. That same person was then asked to make three copies of the letter and send those letters to their friends. Those friends send it to their three friends who then share it with their three friends before you know it; it has gone from three people to 273 people.

At the time, the population in Chicago was a little over one million. If each resident of Chicago sent in a dime the school would have $100,000. Similar campaigns were used to fund a memorial for the veterans of the Spanish-American War and a bike trail in Michigan, just to name a few. They came to be known as “Send a Dime” campaigns. While they did not make the original sender piles of money it did provide the world with a new marketing ploy.

As these letters started to veer away from money and focus on jokes and superstitions one such letter emerged. The exact date of the letter is unknown, however in 1947, several newspapers printed the letter because it was a chain letter of an entirely different kind.


A copy of this letter, signed by Tommy Manville, Artie Shaw, Errol Flynn, and Charlie Chaplin, is currently in our collection. The dark humored joke gained fame as it promised the recipient over sixteen thousand women. That is, provided that he sent a copy letter to five “tired” male friends. He was also instructed to “bundle up his wife and send her to the man whose name was on the top of the list.” Continue reading

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? Fact or Fiction Night

Each month we have a special event for our members. Last month was Fact or Fiction, where we provided two stories for each object brought from the collections storage. It was up to the members to decide which story was the correct one.

Many of these objects might not see the inside of an exhibit space and to have the opportunity to highlight them is fun for us. We thought that since not everyone could be at the event we would share the facts with all of you.

Enjoy this in-depth look at some of the artifacts that caught our interest!


HygrometerMonitoring the weather was one of many tasks assigned to a lighthouse keeper. They would use a tool called a hygrometer, which we highlighted in a previous blog, to take humidity readings. Horsehair was strung across, which would react to the change in humidity causing the needle to move indicating the relative humidity of the area. Here are the inner workings for a 19th century Hygrometer.  It was found during an archaeological excavation of the keepers’ trash pit while building our visitor center. We have found many objects that the keepers had discarded that we have used to help us better understand their lives. Continue reading