Today, August 4, is the birthday of the U. S. Coast Guard, which came into existence 222 years ago, in 1790.
I have a couple of reasons for an interest in the USCG:
1. My current employment is temporary contract work on real property assessment of US Coast Guard assets.
2. I am descended from lighthouse keepers, career men in the U.S. Light House Service which merged with the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939. My paternal grandfather spent his childhood polishing the endless brass implements, instruments, and tools associated with lighthouses and grew up to hate brass. He went into a landlubber line of work – pharmacy – featuring chrome, which doesn’t tarnish. His brothers, however, stuck with the lighthouses.
On August 4, 1790, George Washington signed the Coast Guard into existence when he signed the 1790 Tariff Act, ordering ten revenue cutters and establishing ports and districts throughout the states for the collection of duties imposed on imported goods. This small fleet, an armed maritime law enforcement service called the United States Revenue Marine, worked under the Department of the Treasury.
|USRC Gallatin (built 1831), 1855 photo|
During the unrest between France and the United States between 1798 and 1801, the Revenue Marine worked alongside the brand-new U.S. Navy. created by the Naval Act of 1794 authorizing the construction of ships of war. (Although the Constitution provided for the government to build and maintain a navy, the small navy established during the American Revolution disappeared by 1790. For nearly a decade, until the Navy’s new warships slid down the ways in 1797, the Revenue Marine was the country’s only maritime defense.)
The Revenue Marine’s duties also included arresting America-bound ships engaged in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, illegal in the U.S. after 1807.
The Revenue Marine was renamed the Revenue Cutter Service by act of Congress on July 31, 1894.
|My great-uncle Fred Morong, District Machinist USLHS|
After the Titanic struck an iceberg in April 1912, the International Ice Patrol was created to monitor icebergs in the North Atlantic. The US part of this job fell to the USCG, a service which they maintain to this day.
It wasn’t until January 28, 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson signed a Senate bill (S.2337) that these two services were combined into what is called today the U. S. Coast Guard, still under the Treasury Dept. in time of peace, but under the U.S. Navy in time of war.
|CGC Escanaba in North Atlantic heavy seas, 1965|
Coast Guard motto is “Semper Paratus” (Latin for “always ready”). Captain
Francis Saltus Van Boskerck, USCG, wrote the words to this march in 1922; the music
came five years later.
In 2003, the U.S. Coast Guard became part of the Department of Homeland Security, where it is the largest branch of this department. It has seven basic missions: Search and Rescue, Aids to Navigation, Ice Breaking and Ocean Science, Marine Inspection, Law Enforcement, Military Readiness, and its motto, Semper Paratus: Always ready!
Happy Birthday, United States Coast Guard! Semper Paratus!
US Coast Guard: History http://www.uscg.mil/history/h_index.asp
Wikipedia: United States Life-Saving Service http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Life-Saving_Service
Wikipedia: United States Revenue Cutter Service http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Revenue_Cutter_Service
Photos also from USCG website.