The First Lighthouse Built in the United States Shines Out

September 14, 1716

1729 illustration showing signal cannon in right background

The first lighthouse to be built in the present-day United States began operations on what is now called Little Brewster Island at the entrance to Boston Harbor. The first keeper of the structure known as Boston Light was George Worthylake, who also served as a pilot for vessels entering the harbor.

Unfortunately, however, Worthylake lost his life just a little over two years after assuming the role of keeper. Worthylake, his wife, their daughter, and two men were returning from Boston to the island when their vessel capsized. They all drowned as a result. Benjamin Franklin, who was only 12 years old at the time and employed as an apprentice in a Boston print shop, memorialized the deadly incident in a ballad entitled “Lighthouse Tragedy.”

The original Boston Light remained in service until 1776, when British troops destroyed the structure before evacuating the region. In 1783, the Massachusetts legislature authorized funding for a new lighthouse to be constructed at that same location on the island. This replacement lighthouse continues to function today as a major navigational aid for vessels traveling to and from the Port of Boston. The structure is second only to Sandy Hook Lighthouse in New Jersey as the oldest existing lighthouse still in operation in the United States.  For more information on both versions of Boston Light, please check out and

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