"I therefore rest satisfied, and thank God that my lot is to be an American farmer" –J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer (1782).
[Nantucket]. United States to Paul Pinkham Dr. For Materials and Labour in Repairing the Light House Dwelling and Building a Barn at Nantucket 1797. [manuscript title]. Nantucket, Massachusetts. February 20, 1799. Folio manuscript. pp. Old folds. A touch of foxing. Very good.
Contemporary manuscript evidence of the reconstruction and maintenance of the main lighthouse on Nantucket, called the Great Point Lighthouse, or simply the Nantucket Lighthouse. The light sits at the end of a seven-mile long strip of land and overlooks Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, an area that by the end of the eighteenth century was one of the busiest shipping channels on the East Coast. An iconic lighthouse in an important location, it continues in operation to this day.
The Nantucket lighthouse was built in 1784 (its construction delayed several years by the American Revolution) and Paul Pinkham, a former whaler and the creator of an important chart of the shoals of Nantucket and Vineyards sounds was made the first lighthouse keeper. Initially there was no keeper’s house, and Pinkham had to walk several miles each day to reach the lighthouse. This situation was rectified in the late 1790s when Pinkham was authorized to build a house and barn at the lighthouse, and to improve the structure itself. The present document is Pinkham’s bill for the work he did on site in 1797, apparently written in his hand. The total bill comes to $150.37, and includes reimbursement for Pinkham’s labor, as well as money spent on 20 panes of glass, paint, barn shingles, hinges, “freighting the lumber from town,” carpenter’s work, and for other expenses. The bulk of the work as done in June, 1797, and Pinkham was reimbursed $100 by Captain Alexander Gardner that December. As of February 20, 1799, according to a note at the bottom of the invoice, Pinkham was still owed $50.37. He has signed the document as “Keeper of the Light House Nantucket.” An excellent piece of Nantucket lighthouse history, quite displayable.