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Keeping the lights lit and in good order required a Principal Keeper and three assistant keepers. Over the years, more than a dozen Principal Keepers and 70 assistants served at Twin Lights. Their primary duty was to maintain the light from sunset to sunrise. Other duties included trimming the wick, winding the clockwork mechanism that rotated the light, replenishing the oil supply, and later when the South Tower was electrified, ensuring the machinery in the powerhouse was operating throughout the night. The keepers also had to maintain the buildings and grounds.

At times, a keeper's life was an arduous one. In January 1875, three assistant keepers requested that the night watch be divided into three shifts ". . . owing to the extreme dampness and cold existing in the Towers . . "At other times, it could also be a perilous one. In 1883, a keeper accidentally set himself on fire while lighting the South Tower light.

Lighthouse keepers received little formal training. Most of them learned their duties on the job. Many were former sea captains, sailors or military men who were appointed to their positions by the federal government. Yearly salaries were based on experience and rank, ranging from $400-$600 in 1861, to a top salary of 51,000 in 1921.

The keepers and their families lived in quarters specifically designed for this purpose. The Principal and First Assistant Keepers had the most spacious quarters with four to five rooms each located in the center section of the lighthouse. The other two assistants lived in the lower gallery sections of either end of the building. Such modern conveniences as indoor
plumbing, electricity and central heating were not installed until the 1920's.


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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2018
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: April 26, 2007

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