Delaware Public Media

The U.S. Lifesaving Service—90,000 Lives Saved off the Coast from 1872 to 1914

Jun 24, 2016

It was the precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard and its tender boats grace the museums of the Lewes Historical Society (LHS) close to the Canal. Lewes was not only a shipbuilding capital but home to the rescue service that saved many an ailing seaman. 

LHS education Director Marcos Salaverria provided these photos and maintains the exhibits which draw adult and school-age audiences. 

The Canal at Lewes provided a conduit into both Delaware Bay and the Atlantic City, since Lewes is situated at the confluence or meeting grounds of both bodies of water. Since the ocean poured into the Bay, Lewes provided the stable ground sailors needed before proceeding up to Wilmington or Philadelphia.

Salaverria noted, “Wilmington is the last salt-water port on the way North that doesn’t freeze. Philadelphia is not usable often in winter due to ice and colder temperatures. The salt water at Wilmington is concentrated enough to keep the River from freezing.”

Therefore a healthy traffic of commerce proceeded up and down the river, making Wilmington in winter the ultimate transportation hub. From there  goods proceeded northward through Newport Gap Road into Western Pennsylvania by stagecoach and later by train.

Many a sailor fell overboard, many a schooner capsized and the U.S. Lifesaving Service from Lewes was a steady presence – always there.