Tag Archives: Lighthouse

What ‘shoe’ don’t know about archaeological shoe fragments 

These shoe buckles are on view in the Conservation Lab at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

By Elise Carroll

Assistant Archaeological Conservator

Many significant pieces of history are often over looked because of the regularity of the items occurring. Bright, shiny, seemingly significant objects, such as cannon and coins take center stage, while mundane utilitarian items are often overlooked because of their everyday use. Unsurprisingly, many of the archaeological sites we here at the lighthouse study contain these “significant” items, but they are not the only artifacts that catch our attention!

The image above is of copper shoe buckle that is on display in the window of the Conservation Lab at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

Common, everyday items, such as shoe fragments, can tell you more about the specific individuals aboard our wrecks than many of these more popular, significant items. Many of these items are plain, while some are ornate and decorated. These everyday items can provide the researcher with an estimation of class, sex, and potential origins of the members aboard a vessel.

Example of men’s shoes with a buckle from the 1700s. Source: www.timetoast.com

On many of the sites we study, including Storm Wreck, Anniversary Wreck, and Tolomato archaeological site, items associated with footwear commonly occur. Footwear should be expected because of the regular occurrence of the items throughout history.  Specifically, we have found metallic and the leather fragments of footwear.

Leather footwear contained a specific trend, beginning in the seventeenth century. A piece of history, presently associated more commonly with feminine shoes, the elevated shoe heel, originated with the French King Louis XIV and his need to create a more imposing presence by increasing his height. After this, this piece of fashion slowly began to emerge into lower and middle class societies. At the Tolomato site, we have found an intact fragment of leather shoe heel that contains wooden pegs. These wooden pegs would have been used to fasten the leather layers together creating the desired lift in the heel.

The image above depicts a shoemaker’s shop. Source: “Plate 3” Art du cordonnier. Garsault, François-Alexandre-Pierre de. 1767. Paris, France. Image provided by Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département Réserve des Livres Rares and Gallica.

Shoe buckle fragments have also been found on our archaeological sites. Shoe buckles are comprised of different pieces, a loop, chape, tongue, and a pin. On our sites, we have only found the shoe buckle loops, the most substantial part of a shoe buckle. The loops have been comprised of both copper and pewter based materials. Some of the shoe buckle loops are plain and fairly non-descript, while others are ornate with patterns. Many of these loops are desalinating, or removing the salt from the item, in the window of the Conservation Lab for our guests to see. The salt from the desalinating cupreous loops cause the solution to turn deep blue, which is always fun for guests to see!

These shoe fragments are not the only shoe related materials found on site. We just discovered a piece of shoe sole in our dredge spoil! However, the shoe sole is very modern (known to us as “modern intrusive”). Though the modern shoe fragment does not really tell us much about the historic wreck itself, it provides us more information for our site formation process theories, which is also important for archaeologists. Shoes, though not the most impressive or grandiose of artifacts, play a significant role in history and allow us to step back in time.

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The Lamp Changer

Did you know that the Lighthouse can change its own lightbulb? Well, it can and has been doing so for many years now. In 1936, electricity was first brought to the Lighthouse. This meant significant changes for the Lighthouse keepers since they no longer had to carry buckets of kerosene to the top of the lighthouse to burn in the lamp to create the light. Now light bulbs did the work of producing the light! But the keepers still had to stay up all night to make certain that the light bulb didn’t burn out, and that if it did, they were there to replace it.

Carlisle & Finch Lamp Changer in place in the Lighthouse lens room.

Years later, an innovative company in Cincinnati, Ohio came up with an answer to help make life easier for lighthouse keepers – a lamp changer for lighthouses! The Carlisle & Finch Company, the “Global Leader in Spotlight Technology,” specializes in the production of high quality optical products for a range of maritime uses, including within the United States Coast Guard and Navy.

Our lamp changer holds two, 1000-watt bulbs. The one in the center, or primary position (the large bulb on the left), is the operational bulb. The one to the right is in the backup position. If the primary bulb burns out, the electrical circuit is broken, releasing a switch. A spring at the base of the bulb’s housing piece then rotates the backup bulb to the primary position, where it snaps into place and completes the circuit. The backup bulb comes on automatically.

Here, I am holding the lamp (bulb) in the halfway position.

Did you notice that the bulbs look very different? The larger bulb is an historic 1000-watt GE bulb that is no longer made. The smaller bulb is the replacement that GE came out with a few years ago; it is also a 1000-watt bulb. The smaller bulb sits upon a ceramic block that serves two purposes: it dissipates heat so that the bulb lasts longer, and it places the filament at the same height as the older bulbs so that the focal plane of the light shines correctly through the lens. The old bulbs are so old (some dating to WWII) that we don’t know how long they will last, so we always put a new bulb in the backup position. If we used two old bulbs, they might both burn out on the same night, which as St. Augustine’s navigation beacon, would become a crisis situation. We only have a certain number of the old bulbs left, and once they are gone, it will be the end of an era. Our Lighthouse will then have two of the new bulbs in place, and thankfully, if the bulb changer ever wears out, the Carlisle & Finch Company is still in business to help us replace it.

Contributed by Director of Museum Services Rick Cain, edited by Student Intern Jayda Barnes

Lighthouse Technology: Fresnel Lens

Welcome to our newest blog WP_20151104_15_36_08_Proseries where we will examine the technological innovations that improved lighthouses and made coastlines around the world safer. Each installment of the blog series will cover an invention or technological application introduced at the St. Augustine Lighthouse in its history. This first installment will focus on the powerhouse of the lighthouse – the first order Fresnel lens.

Lighthouse Illumination

The first lighthouses, as we recognize them now, were simply bonfires set atop high ground to improve their visibility. Eventually, people placed these fires on elevated platforms to extend their range. Technological advances replaced these fires with oil lanterns that provided a strong, steady light source. Despite these improvements in light sources, lighthouses still required some sort of magnification to project their beacon out to the horizon. Continue reading

Six Common Misconceptions about the St. Augustine Lighthouse

Six Common Misconceptions about the St. Augustine Lighthouse

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is a popular destination in our nation’s oldest city, but many misconceptions about it persist. Each of the following are NOT TRUE, but are often thought to be.

Misconception #1 – The St. Augustine Lighthouse is Florida’s first lighthouse.
2002.051.001
The old St. Augustine Lighthouse

Florida’s first lighthouse was the old St. Augustine Lighthouse (often called the Old Spanish Watchtower). It was a refurbished Spanish-built watchtower. The current lighthouse replaced the old one when beach erosion began to threaten the first lighthouse’s foundation. It eventually fell into the ocean in 1880. Continue reading