Postcard of the Biloxi Lighthouse

The Biloxi Lighthouse standing among debris

The postcard above shows the wreckage of a schooner heaped against the lighthouse in Biloxi, Mississippi, just after the 1915 hurricane. (The current hurricane naming system was not in place until 1951, so many hurricanes before that time - like this one - were unnamed.) The category 4 hurricane made landfall at Grand Isle, Louisiana, on September 29, 1915, with sustained wind speeds of 140 mph, higher than any wind speeds recorded in North American prior to that time. The eye passed over New Orleans, but even the glancing blow thrown towards Biloxi was impressive in its effects.

The storm interrupted the annual reunion of the Mississippi Division of the United Confederate Veterans, downing trees at Beauvoir and demolishing the Biloxi Yacht Club, along with boats, piers, trolley tracks, homes, and lives across the coast. Biloxi's damage was limited to the beachfront, though faulty national press claiming that the entire city was under water devastated the winter tourist industry. The hurricane also proved to have much more long-lasting effects: it spurred Biloxians to finish Pass Road, restore the beach road that would later become Highway 90, and protect the beach front with a seawall.

Built of cast iron, Biloxi's lighthouse was established in 1848 - the first lighthouse in the South. Since then, it has become a well-known Mississippi landmark, and may well be the most-photographed sight on the coast. Its light is easily seen twelve miles out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Unlike any other lighthouse in the United States, the Biloxi lighthouse keepers have been mostly women. Maria Younghans was the official keeper from 1867 until 1918, when her age (over 70) made her ineligible to serve. Even as a widow with two small children, she had kept the light burning through all kinds of weather by climbing the 65 feet of stairs to change the lard oil lamps twice every night. The U.S. Government awarded her the Star of Efficiency for her service and promptly appointed her daughter Mirandy as the new keeper. The lighthouse was automated in the early 1940s and is now operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

To view this item, visit the 3rd floor of McCain Library. This postcard is found in the Postcard Collection (M36-76). For more information on this item, contact Special Collections at 601.266.4345 or Ask-a-Librarian. To see more Items of the Month, click here.

For more information about Hurricanes on the Mississippi Gulf Coast:

Brinkley, Douglas. The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. New York: Morrow, 2006. (Cook, McCain, Gulf Coast, and GCRL Libraries
HV636 2005 .G85 B75 2006)

Sullivan, Charles L. Hurricanes of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, 1717 to Present. Biloxi, MS : Gulf Publishing, 1986.(Cook, McCain, and Gulf Coast Libraries QC959 .G84 S94x 1986)

Hurricanes of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Collection, 1715-1985 (M282) held at McCain Library & Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.

Thompson (Ray M.) Papers, 1837-1972 (M8) held at McCain Library & Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.

For more information about the Biloxi lighthouse (or lighthouses in general):

Cipra, David L. Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Gulf of Mexico. Alexandria, VA: Cypress Communications, 1997. (University Libraries does not own this title. This item may be borrowed from another library using Document Delivery services found in Cook and the Gulf Coast Libraries)

Costopoulos, Nina. Lighthouse Trivia. Birmingham, AL: Crane Hill Publishers, 2001. (McCain Library-de Grummond Collection VK1010 .C678 2001)

Shelton-Roberts, Cheryl. Lighthouse families. Birmingham, AL: Crane Hill Publishers, 1997. (McCain Library-de Grummond Collection VK1023 .S495 1997)

Thompson (Ray M.) Papers, 1837-1972 (M8) held at McCain Library & Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.

Text for this "Item of the Month" prepared by Diane DeCesare Ross.