National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Lighthouse Postcards

Browse: Maps | Region/State | Name Index

 Using This Site

This Web display offers several approaches to finding and viewing the postcards in the collection.

On Maps: The locations of the lighthouses in the collection are marked by icons and names on stylized maps of regions, sub-regions, or states. Clicking the lighthouse’s name on a map will link to the page for that site.

By Region/State: Sites with lighthouse postcards are grouped within five regions: New England, Mid-Atlantic, Gulf-Southeast, Pacific Ocean, and Great Lakes, including Canada. Clicking on the name of a lighthouse in a particular state will link to the page for that site.

By Name: All of the sites with lighthouse postcards are listed alphabetically using the current lighthouse names (which occasionally do not match those printed on the historic postcards). Clicking on the name will transfer the viewer to the page for that lighthouse. Where the collection includes more than one postcard for a particular lighthouse, all of the cards for that lighthouse are displayed on the same page.

About the Postcard Site Pages

The site page for each lighthouse includes the structure’s name and location, together with images of the picture and message sides of the associated postcard(s). These images can be enlarged by clicking on them. Site pages also contain links to nautical charts that indicate the location of the lighthouse in question, its status (that is, whether it is active, inactive, or no longer standing), and the purpose for its placement. (The nautical chart images were produced for this Web display by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA].) A number of chart images identify more than a single lighthouse location, and the viewer may need to scroll up or down, or left or right to see the entire chart section. Additional charts are presented for some sites to provide more detail of channel or harbor areas. For those postcards portraying lighthouses no longer standing and not identified on current charts, the site page includes links to historic charts (where available) that pinpoint their locations.

Each site page also contains abbreviated background information on the lighthouse and its history, electronic and print references for further information, the estimated period of the postcard’s production, and an actual date for the postcard, if the card was postmarked or the date otherwise noted.


Some words and phrases found on nautical charts or employed to describe lighthouse functions and attributes (such as “range” or “range light,” “nautical mile,” “sector” lights, and “private aid to navigation”) are not in common usage. Their definitions may be found in the glossary.

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