Category Archives: Miscellaneous

A New Way to Get Involved – The Beacon Society!

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is excited to announce The Beacon Society:  a new volunteer service group that will help promote the Museum’s non-profit mission through fundraising, advocacy, and volunteering. This group of philanthropic and service-minded individuals is replacing two of our previously active support groups called The Tower Club and The Guild. With a resurgence of interest to give back to the Lighthouse in a more donor-centric way, we have decided to revamp both of these groups and create The Beacon Society.

The Beacon Society primarily exists to support Lighthouse fundraising efforts and serve as an ambassador of the St. Augustine Lighthouse through service to the community. We are currently working on a few fundraisers including a special “Dark of the Moon” tour with light refreshments plus beer and wine as well as an educational bus trip to other lighthouses. The Society will continue to support existing events like our annual Luminary Night and Nightfest.

If you have always wanted to be involved at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum but don’t necessarily have the time during the day to volunteer, this may be for you! We will have an informational membership social on June 15th at 6:30 p.m. at OddBirds located at 33 Charlotte Street.

For questions or general information about joining, call Michelle Adams at (904) 829-0745.

Garden Volunteers

Junior Service League

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is excited to announce a new volunteer opportunity!  We are currently recruiting for new Volunteer Gardeners to help maintain the 6 acres that the Lighthouse and Museum sit upon.

We have been very lucky in the past to have had Corporate and Civil groups help us with large projects.  Many of these groups have helped us spread mulch, plant and weed our grounds.  It was during our last mulching project, that we were inspired by our volunteers to start a weekly gardening program.

Lindsey Wilson College (2) Flagler CollegeThe Lighthouse Garden Volunteers will be meeting on Monday and Wednesdays from 9am until about noon.    In the first informational meeting, Staff and Volunteers decided to start work on our herb garden.  We will then move to the front of the Visitor Center, and also work on the Keepers’ Garden.  We’ve got a lot of clean up to do!

herb garden keepers garden

If you are interested in becoming a Volunteer Gardener, please fill out an application here: or Contact Loni Wellman at

What’s in a Collection? Dog Tags

What’s in a Collection? Dog Tags

Personal identification tags or commonly referred to as dog tags are an object that most of us are familiar with maybe seeing them in movies or first hand from a family member.  They were issued as part of the military uniform, but continued to serve as personal keepsake for family members.  The tags primary function was to be used for the identification of fallen and wounded soldiers.  These tags varied through time in style, but always had personal information about the individual.  However, the history of military identification tags is quite old, and not unique to United States.  The Imperial Roman army utilized identification tags for legionaries.  In the Roman army, recruits would enter into service starting off in a training phase similar to what we would consider boot camp.  If a potential soldier passed all the physical and medical requirements, they were presented with an object called a signaculum.  The signaculum was a pendant-like object made out of lead and was to be worn around their neck.  The signaculum would have their name etched on it as well as other information like legion they belonged to and start date of service.  At the same time they were presented with this, they also were to swear a military oath of service.

In the United States, forms of military personal identification can be traced to the Civil War.  Soldiers started pinning tags inside coats with important information about themselves.  At the time, badge manufactures attempted to meet this need.  They would sell pins with the soldiers name and unit engraved on it, and even made proposals to the US government to provide uniform identification discs.  It was not until the early 20th century that the army recognized the importance and began to issue personal identification tags.  During World War I dual tags were issued for field combat with additional information that included a serial number, name and occasional medical alerts stamped on the tag.

In our collection we have a set of dog tags from the Pierson collection dating from World War II.  This set, as seen in the images, is more oval in shape and might not be what first comes to mind as military identification tag. During the latter part of WWII, these tags were made of brass or stainless steel.  Prior to this, a specialized metal (referred to as Monel) high in nickel content was used.  In first half of the 20th century some branches of the military only issued dog tags during times of war.  It was not until the latter half that they became standard issue.  During WWII the US Navy, as well as the US Coast Guard, made this a standard issue item.  They also made additions to the type of information recorded.  This identification tag would include the individual’s name, service number and branch of service.  As we look at this tag, Mr. Pierson was in the US Coast Guard Reserve (USGGR).  They also included pertinent medical information that could obviously be very important in a combat situation.  As seen in the image, the tag included blood type information and if the person had been vaccinated for tetanus (show by the “T”) as well as when they received that tetanus shot (in this case September 1942).  Since there was not a standard set for all branches of the armed service during the war; the tags and information would vary, for instance, the USN would also include a fingerprint that was etched on the reverse side of each tag.  Etching the fingerprint was an interesting process involving ink, fine mineral powder, heating the tag, and a final stage that included a bath in acids and water.  Putting fingerprints on tags was discontinued during the war, one can image this extensive process could have been part of the reason.







A set of USCGR issued dog tags that belonged to Donald Pierson


Reverse side of the USCGR dog tags

Another interesting aspect with some identification tags was their use with field paperwork.  During World War II the US Army issued more rectangular shaped tags that featured a notch at one end.  These dog tags were unitized in the field with a device referred to as an Addressograph Model 70.  This addressograph was a hand held device that imprinted information from the dog tag onto documents.  The device had a rubber pad and a ribbon so that the imprinted information from the tag could be transferred to paperwork.  Think of it like a label maker meets the early carbon copy credit card devices.  The notch on the tag ensured properly alignment when used with the addressograph.  The idea was that the tag could be used for paperwork reducing the potential for error.  These types of addressographs were primarily used by the medical departments.  The success of these devices was relatively short-lived and limited as field conditions (particularly dirt) caused problems with their usage.

An example of a WWII Army issued dog tag with notch

By the late 1950s, the US military made consistent identification tags a standard issue for all armed services.  Though these objects are small they very fascinating for some, their durable construction and other attributes lead to the eventually transformation into a fashion accessory for civilians.  These historical artifacts served an important function for the military operations and service, however, they continued to function as symbols of the fallen, and remembrance of the past.

Jason Titcomb is the Chief Curator for the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.  He holds a graduate degree in anthropology from Iowa State University.

WWII Era Maintenance Garage Restoration

On April 5th, the World War II-era garage here on the light station was raised by professional house movers. As part of restoring and maintaining our historic campus, the building will be converted for use as WWII Coast Guard exhibit space and for the Museum’s café. For years, soil built up around the foundation, causing moisture and termite problems that almost completely destroyed the original structural fabric. In 2008, the Museum completed some internal work to sure-up the back wall and installed a new shingle roof using replica 1940s green asphalt shingles. The 2016 work goes far deeper into the structure and it will be made as good as new by the time it re-opens to the public later this year.

The building will sit upon a new foundation slab, approximately one foot higher than the old foundation. This will prevent soil buildup and ensure the integrity of the structure for years to come. After the new foundation is poured, and utilities are installed, the moving company will lower the building onto its new home. There is a lot going on here at the Lighthouse to create new opportunities for our visitors and members and better house our existing programs. You may have noticed the new maintenance building to the south of the Visitors’ Center and the new Maritime Archaeology and Education Center on the north end of the campus. Much of the construction should be done by the middle of the summer and we look forward to opening the new buildings, exhibits, and labs to our community and patrons. Follow our activity here on the blog, on Facebook, and by visiting with us here in beautiful St. Augustine!

Click below to see the video of the raising of the WWII-era Maintenance Garage! 

Brendan Burke joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in 2007 as an archaeologist for the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program. He holds a graduate degree in Anthropology from The College of William & Mary.

Volunteers Give Over Half a Million Dollars in Donated Services to the Museum

Volunteers from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum donated over 21,000 hours in 2016 to help with maritime research, building and artifact preservation, improving the visitor experience and teaching others at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc.


Volunteers are the heart of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, and on Thursday, March 9, the Museum had the chance to honor them. Many of their dedicated volunteers and staff gathered at the historic St. Francis Barracks Officer’s Club to celebrate the Lighthouse volunteers who donated over 21,000 hours in calendar year 2016.


Executive Director, Kathy A. Fleming opened the evening up by thanking the volunteers for all that they do for the Museum and assuring them “You are deeply loved.” Fleming then introduced Peter Spiller, Chairperson of the Board. Spiller congratulated the group for “making the organization stronger with their many talents and comprehensive experience.” Board Member Maury Kaiser was also in attendance, as were many other volunteer boat builders, docents, preservationists and conservation volunteers who give their time to teach children, clean the Museum, preserve the site, or work with underwater artifacts.


Volunteer & Events Manager Loni Wellman, gave a certificate to each volunteer calling out the hours donated individually. Katey Anderson represented the Junior Service League of St. Augustine, whose members still give 10 hours each, every year to the Lighthouse, a Legacy project of the league. Hours given are all appreciated and started with only 9 hours a person. Wellman and the staff offered a warm note of thanks and if wanted, a hug. The volunteer in attendance with the most hours given this year was William Mai with 440 hours. Any volunteer who gives over 40 hours receives a free Museum Membership. The Museum has 253 volunteers of all ages, and also works with corporate and school volunteer programs.

DSC_8465 DSC_8470

According to the National Value of Volunteer Time, the number of hours contributed by St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum volunteers in 2016 has a cash value of $512,312.00, if the Museum were to pay for those same services. It is really much more than that for us, said Fleming. “You cannot replace the love and care and passion our volunteers bring to us for any amount of money.” Wellman added, “Volunteerism also brings wellness to people of all ages because it builds true friendships and a sense of community engagement.” She continued, “Lighthouse volunteers take part in many tasks at the Museum, from scientific diving on shipwrecks to leading tours around the historic site to helping in the office.  There is a job fit for everyone.” Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum can contact Loni Wellman at or (904) 829-0745, ext 213.