Keeper’s Rules

A lighthouse keeper or lightkeeper is a person responsible for tending and caring for a lighthouse, particularly the light and lens in the days when oil lamps and clockwork mechanisms were used.

Lighthouse keepers were sometimes referred to as "wickies" because of their job trimming the wicks.

The edition of Instructions to Light-Keepers on the right is accessible on as an interactive document. It’s very well done and worth a look.

An earlier list of rules from 1835 is below.

Instructions to the keepers of light houses within the United States

  1. You are to light the lamps every evening at sun-setting, and keep them continually burning bright and clear, till sun-rising.

  2. You are to be careful that the lamps, reflectors, and lanterns, are constantly kept clean and in order; and particularly to be careful that no lamps, wood, or candles, be left burning any where as to endanger fire.

  3. In order to maintain the greatest degree of light during the night, the wicks are to be trimmed every four hours, taking care that they are exactly even on the top

  4. You are to keep an exact amount of the quantity of oil received from time to time; the number of gallons, quarts, gills, &c., consumed each night; and deliver a copy of the same to the Superintendentevery three months, ending 31 March, 30 June, 30 September, and 31 December, in each year; with an account of the quantity on hand at the time.

  5. You are not to sell, or permit to be sold, any spirituous liquors on the premises of the United States; but will treat with civility and attention, such strangers as may visit the Light- house under your charge, and as may conduct themselves in an orderly manner.

  6. You will receive no tube-glasses, wicks, or any other article which the contractors, Messr. Morgan & Co., at New Bedford, are bound to supply, which shall not be of suitable kind; and if the oil they supply, should, on trial, prove bad, you will immediately acquaint the Superintendent therewith, in order that he may exact from them a compliance with this contract.[6]

  7. Should the contractors omit to supply the quantity of oil, wicks, tube-glasses, or other articles necessary to keep the lights in continual operation, you will give the Superintendent timely notice thereof, that he may inform the contractors and direct them to forward the requisite supplies.

  8. You will not absent yourself from the Light-house at any time, without first obtaining the consent of the Superintendent, unless the occasion be so sudden and urgent as not to admit of an application to that officer; in which case, by leaving a suitable substitute, you may be absent for twenty-four hours

  9. All your communications intended for this office, must be transmitted through the Superintendent, through whom the proper answer will be returned.

Fifth Auditor and Acting Commissioner of the Revenue



Fifth Auditor's Office

April 23d, 1835