Ship Model, Lighthouse Tender Joseph Henry

This model represents the U.S. Lighthouse Tender Joseph Henry, a side-wheeled steamer built by Howard & Company in Jeffersonville, Indiana, in 1880. This 180-foot-long vessel was built for service along the nation’s inland waterways. Lighthouse tenders served both coastal and inland areas by delivering supplies, fuel, news, and relief and maintenance crew to lighthouses and lightships. They also maintained aids to navigation, including markers identifying channels, shoals, and obstructions. Based out of Memphis, the Joseph Henry worked along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers until 1904.
The vessel’s namesake, Joseph Henry, was America’s foremost scientist in the 19th century. His expertise was in the field of electromagnetism. Henry was a professor at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) when he was named the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, a position he held from 1846 until his death in 1878. He also served on the U.S. Lighthouse Board (1852-78), and implemented various improvements in lighting and signaling during his tenure. This lighthouse tender was named in his honor at its launching two years after his death.
Object Name
ship model
model, ship
Date made
late 19th century
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
overall: 14 in x 52 in x 16 1/2 in; 35.56 cm x 132.08 cm x 41.91 cm
Place Made
United States
built in
United States: Indiana, Jefferson
worked along
United States: Mississippi River
United States: Missouri River
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Mathematics
On the Water exhibit
The Development of the Industrial United States
The Emergence of Modern America
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

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