Lighthouses like the one in the image to the left, taken from the Great Lakes Maritime History Project, have captured the artistic eye of the nation, inspiring a variety of photographs, paintings, and novels over the years. Perhaps they have been romanticized as beacons of light in the darkness, or maybe their appeal comes from their more practical function of keeping ships from crashing upon the shore. Whatever the reason for the popularity of lighthouses, people rarely stop to think of the maintenance involved in the upkeep of these buildings.
Ships known as “Lighthouse Tenders” were specifically designed to maintain, support, and/or tend to lighthouses by providing supplies, fuel, mail, and transportation. These ships originally served as part of the U.S. Lighthouse Services and now are a part of the U.S. Coast Guard. The UW-La Crosse Steamboat collection features numerous images of these historic Lighthouse Tenders, primarily depicted on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri rivers, including the image to the right depicting the Goldenrod, which served as both a Lighthouse Tender and a Towboat.