Lighthouse in Cutler given rare telescope

Posted Jan. 05, 2009, at 7:33 p.m.

CUTLER, Maine — A rare telescope once used by the U.S. Life Saving Service to watch for shipwrecks off the Down East coast of Maine soon will have a new home as part of the maritime exhibit at Cutler’s Little River Lighthouse.

The rare brass telescope, presented to Tim Harrison, co-chairman of the Friends of Little River Lighthouse, has been in the possession of George Morrison of Oak Bay, New Brunswick, for several years. He inherited it from his father. When presenting the telescope to Harrison, Morrison said in a prepared release, “I now know that the telescope will have a good home and I entrust it to Harrison’s care for future generations.”

The late 1800s hand-held brass telescope was manufactured in Paris by Bardou & Son, specifically for the U.S. Life Saving Service, which in 1915, along with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, merged to become the U.S. Coast Guard.

The telescope is marked with the Bardou & Son and U.S. Life Saving Service trademarks, and has a canvas cover on the main tube. It measures 23 inches when closed, telescoping to 39 inches when extended. It still has its original eyepiece and object dust slide, the latter being incorporated into a press-on cover, which may be fully removed, according to the press release.

Harrison said the lighthouse group’s research indicates very few of the telescopes were commissioned from Bardou by the Life Saving Service, probably because they were so expensive at the time, the release added.

Where, when and how Morrison’s father acquired the telescope is unclear, but it is believed it probably came from the original Quoddy Head Life Saving Station in Lubec or the Cross Island Life Saving Station in Machiasport, the release indicated.

Both structures no longer stand, although they were replaced by other structures, which now are privately owned.

Both Morrison and his father were in the U.S. Coast Guard, and at different times were stationed at some of the same lighthouses and Coast Guard stations during their careers. The Morrison family was the last lighthouse family stationed at the no longer standing St. Croix River Lighthouse in Calais, according to the press re-lease.

This is not the first time Morrison has made important donations of artifacts that will be displayed at Little River Lighthouse. Last year, he donated a rare Seth Thomas brass clock, which once hung at Cross Island Life Saving Station, as well as a 1911 Light List book.

Last year, Morrison and his wife, Wendy, served as volunteer caretakers at the nearly restored lighthouse. Morrison said he was so impressed by what the many volunteers had accomplished under the leadership of Harrison, Hal Biering and Kathy Finnegan, among others, he decided to contribute items as his way of helping to preserve not only his family’s maritime history, but also to teach others through the display of artifacts, the release said.

Little River Lighthouse, which sits on a 15-acre island at the entrance to the harbor in Cutler, once was listed by Maine Preservation as one of Maine’s 10 most endangered historic properties. Since early 2000, the American Lighthouse Foundation, which now owns the lighthouse and the island, has been restoring the lighthouse station to its original grandeur.

To learn more about ongoing restoration of Little River Lighthouse or its overnight summer accommodations, visit www.littleriverlight.org or call 259-3833 or write to Friends of Little River Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, P.O. Box 671, East Machias 04630.

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