On the Water

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.

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14 x 52 x 16 1/2 in.; 35.56 x 132.08 x 41.91 cm

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