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By HORACE L. PIPER
Assistant General Superintendent, United States Life-Saving Service
RGANIZED EFFORT for the rescue of life from the perils of the sea is decidedly modern. In England, the foremost maritime. nation of the world, it developed no earlier than here.
Origin and Early Growth Although the Humane Society of Massachusetts established houses of refuge on the coast of that Commonwealth as early as 1789, and began placing lifeboat. stations there in 1807, the Government of the United States, strange to say, took no hand in life-saving affairs until 1847, when an appropriation of $5,000 was made for furnishing lighthouses on the Atlantic coast with means for assisting shipwrecked mariners. The next year, Congress appropriated $10,000, to be expended on the coast of New Jersey, between Sandy Hook and Little Egg Harbor. The importance or unimportance
of the stations established with the help of this paltry sum, may be estimated from the fact that eight stations were erected and put in working order. They were little more than rough board shanties 16 by 28 feet, scantily equipped. An appropriation of $20,000, made in March, 1849, proved sufficient to build and equip eight stations on Long Island, and six on
the New Jersey coast between Little Egg Harbor and Cape May.
Among the appliances furnished was a life-car, which was destined to be tested soon and successfully. During a savage storm on the night of January 12, 1850, the emigrant ship Ayrshire stranded at Squan Beach, having on board many people for those days of small things. They were more than 200; and, since the surf ran so high that no boat could be launched, a line was shot out from a mortar, and the life-car, with a rope attached to each end, was then drawn forth to the ship and back to the land many times, finally rescuing the entire ship's company. Instantly the invention of the car came into hot dispute between Mr. Joseph Francis and Capt. Douglas Ottinger, it having been constructed under the supervision of Mr. Francis, a practical machinist, with the coöperation of Captain Ottinger, of the Revenue Cutter Service, who had charge of the life-saving stations. Francis lived to be 92 and Ottinger to be 94 years old, but neither could prove his claim. In 1859 Congress recognized that of Ottinger, and voted him $10,000 in consideration of his services to humanity. Twenty-eight years afterwards, another Congress awarded a huge gold medal to Mr. Fran
Copyright, 1904, by The Technical World.
TRANSFERRED TO HARVARD EOHNICAL WORLD
cis for the same invention. The car which bred the famous quarrel has been seen by millions of persons at our various national and international expositions, and, with the shot fired on the occasion above mentioned, is now on exhibition at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.
From 1848 to 1853 the Life-Saving Service drifted along very much like a rudderless craft, and in 1853 Congress failed to adopt a pending measure to pro
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mote its efficiency. Many heartrending disasters had recently occurred; but in May, 1854, the ship Powhatan, carrying between 300 and 400 persons, was lost on the Jersey coast, and, although she lay only about 200 feet off shore, everyone aboard perished. This appalling calamity so aroused the country that Congress
FIRST UNITED STATES LIFE-SAVING STATION.
of $200. Crews were left to be picked up as best they might whenever the awful necessity should arise. In this fashion things continued until 1869, when Mr. Haight, Representative from New Jersey, tried to secure a provision of law allowing the employment of permanent surfmen. He was defeated; but fortunately, through the vigorous and skilful efforts. of Hon. S. S. Cox, a substitute was adopted, authorizing crews at alternate stations. That was something, and it "broke the ice" for the passage of subsequent legislation.
Even with these improvements, the Service still remained deplorably inadequate. It lacked thorough organization and zealous guardianship. The Revenue Cutter Service, of which the Life-Saving establishment was only an adjunct, was itself sadly in need of reformation; and to that end, in February, 1871, Mr. Sumner I. Kimball was appointed Chief. Politics had honeycombed the whole fabric; and, with regard to the Life-Saving branch, there was an especially sorry state of affairs. An inspection along the coast showed the stations too remote from one another; the houses often filthy, some in ruins; the outfits frequently lacking such prime requisites as powder, rockets, and shot-lines; the apparatus
when the wreck of the Metropolis occurred on the coast of North Carolina, involving the loss of 85 lives, and, soon thereafter, the wreck on the same coast of the U. S. war vessel Huron, in which 98 men perished. These overwhelming shocks at first provoked wrathful censure of the Life-Saving Service; but, as to the Huron, it was speedily disclosed that she was lost while the Life-Saving stations were closed according to law. With regard to the Metropolis, it appeared that Congress had failed to place stations in that vicinity, as had been urged by the Chief of the Service. The outcome of the whole matter was that the Life-Sav
where only a keeper is employed. The Keepers (Captains) of the stations having crews receive $900 per annum; and the members of the crews (surfmen), $65 per month. Keepers must not be less than 21 years old when enlisted, surfmen not less than 18, and neither class more than 45. Keepers are promoted from the surfmen, and superintendents from the keepers. Outsiders are eligible only to the grade of surfmen, and the prospect of promotion therefore furnishes strong incentive to faithful conduct. The crews are drilled every day except Saturdays, in some of their duties, among which are resuscitation of the ap