Maritime Log #29 – New England Played a Key Role in Development of Coast Guard

New England Played a Key Role in Development of Coast Guard

by Dyke Hendrickson. Custom House Maritime Museum Outreach Historian

Coast Guard developments that took place in New England have molded the national organization in several major ways.

Newburyport is the birthplace of the Coast Guard. In 1790, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton prevailed upon President George Washington to create a revenue cutter service. The first vessel, the Massachusetts, was built in Newburyport. Largely for that reason, Newburyport is considered the birthplace. The anniversary date of the service is Aug. 4, 1790.

Also, the development of the Humane Service and the Life-Saving Service have their roots in Massachusetts and other New England states. Both organizations were melded into the Coast Guard, which was formally named in 1915. The Lighthouse Service was merged into the service in 1939.

Another major development in the region was the birth of the modern helicopter. It was developed in Stratford, Conn. Inventor Igor Sikorsky worked for more than two decades to create a vehicle that could take off and land in a small area. He designed it to have the power to carry heavy loads. The Coast Guard was an early adaptor of the helicopter. Choppers can rescue crews of recreational craft and commercial fishing vessels alike. It is a powerful weapon in the Coast Guard arsenal to save lives.

In addition, the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., was the first service academy to enroll women. This progressive decision is still playing out but it is clear that women – officers and enlisted personnel – have made great Coasties. The number of women is growing. In 2018, close to 40 percent of the entering class at the Academy were women.

There are today more than two-dozen Coast Guard active stations in New England. Many more outposts have closed with the development of maritime technology, including the introduction of choppers, the development of powerful search-and-rescue vessels and the creation of sophisticated communication tools.

The following stations remain active, according to Coast Guard records: Maine, Boothbay Harbor, Kittery, Jonesport, Rockland, South Portland, Southwest Harbor; New Hampshire, Portsmouth Harbor; Vermont, Burlington; Massachusetts, Boston, Bourne, Chatham, Gloucester, Nantucket, Newburyport, Hull, Provincetown, Scituate, Woods Hole; Rhode Island, Block Island, Newport, Point Judith; Connecticut, New Haven, New London.

Pictured here is former Coast Guard station in Newburyport at north end of Plum Island. It is now used by the local Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Many more stations have been closed. The following units are no longer active:

Maine, Burnt Island (1891-1964), Cape Elizabeth (1887-1964), Cranberry Island (1880-1946), Cross Island (1874-1964), Crumple Island (1874-1952), Damariscove Island (1897-1960), Fletcher’s Neck, Biddeford (1873-1955), Hunniwell’s Beach, Phippsburg (1883-1971), Quoddy Head, Lubec, (1873-1970), White Head, St. George, 1874-1956).

New Hampshire, Hampton Beach, (1898-1969), Isle of Shoals (1910-1954), Rye Beach (1874-1933), Wallis Sands, Rye (1890-1938).

Massachusetts, Marshfield, (1893-1953), Wellfleet (1873-1950), Dorchester Day, floating station (1896-1929), Coskata, Nantucket (1883-1953), Cuttyhunk, (1895-1964), Fourth Cliff, Scituate (1879-1952), Duxbury (1878-1957), High Head, Truro (1882-1921), Truro, Highland (1882-1955), Maddaket, Nantucket, (1889-1956), Monomet (1874-1955), Aquinnah (1895-1955), Monomoy Island (1874-1955), Monomoy Point (1902-1947), Muskeget (1892-1922), Nahant (1898-1963), Nauset, Eastham (1872-1948), New Bedford (closed 2003), Osterville (closed 1986), North Scituate (1884-1947), Chatham (1898-1947), Orleans (1873-1947), Truro, (1873-1938), Peaked Hill Bars, Provincetown (1872-1938), Plum Island, Newburyport (1889-1973), Salisbury Beach (1898-1939), Annisquam (1889-1964), Surfside, Nantucket (1874-1921), Wood End, Provincetown, (1896-1948).

Rhode Island, Brenton Point, Newport (1884-1946), South Kingston (1911-1939), Narragansett (1887-1937), New Shoreham (1874-1937), Quonochontaug (1891-1939), Portsmouth (1898-1922), Watch Hill (1879-1947).

If your organization would like me to speak at an event, please get in touch. I can be reached at

Thanks. Dyke Hendrickson