Date of Award

Summer 1995

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

James R. Sweeney

Committee Member

Karin A. Wulf

Committee Member

Carolyn J. Lawes


As the federal government of the United States began its existence, the Chesapeake Bay had gone without a significant navigational aid for nearly two centuries. What factors then led the newly established government to build a lighthouse on Cape Henry, at the entrance of the Bay? Although the colonial governments of Virginia and Maryland failed to build a lighthouse, their efforts provided the groundwork for the Cape Henry light, which the federal government envisioned not only as a device to guide ships to safety, but as part of a system designed to ensure revenue for the new nation. This study will examine the construction of the lighthouse against the background of its perceived need by the colonial and national governments. Sources used for this work include the Calendar of Virginia State Papers, Hening's Statutes, the journals of the House of Burgesses, the Scharf Collection at the Maryland State Archives, and the records of federal lighthouse administration, located in the National Archives.


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