Guide to the Sankaty Head Lighthouse Collection

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Research Library at the Nantucket Historical Association. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the internet.

Collection Details

Collection Number:
Sankaty Head Lighthouse Collection
Bunker, Alexander D., 1792-1871.
Nantucket Historical Association
Material is in English.

Information for Users

Restrictions to Access: No restrictions. Open for research.

Restrictions to Use: No usage restrictions.

Copyright Notice: Copyright is retained by the authors of items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation: [identification of item], in the Sankaty Head Lighthouse collection, Nantucket Historical Association.

Acquisitions Information:

Gift of the Friends of the NHA of Nantucket, Mass., in March 2014 (Acc. RL2014.46).

Sensitive Materials Statement:

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual’s private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Nantucket Historical Association assumes no responsibility.

Subject Headings

  • Personal Name
    • Bunker, Alexander D., 1792-1871.

Biographical Information

Alexander D. Bunker (1792-1871) was born to Absalom Bunker and Love Downs. He married Rebecca Baxter (1793-1879), daughter of William Baxter and Hannah Groves, with whom he had three daughters.

Alexander was a whaling captain on the following voyages from Nantucket, Mass.: Brothers (1817-1819); Ontario (1820-1823, 1824-1827); Zone (1827-1830); Clarkson (1830-1834); and Panama (1836-1839). In 1850, he became the first keeper of Sankaty Light.

Scope and Content

The collection contains journals, an instruction manual, and other historical materials related to the daily operation, keepers, and history of the Sankaty Head Lighthouse.

The earliest material in this collection, dated 1849, is an instruction manual. The manual consists of 20 pages of instructions for the keeper of Sankaty Light and is signed by B.F. Isherwood, chief engineer, U.S. Navy, titled, Instructions for the Keeper, Sancoty [sic] Head Lighthouse. A transcription is available online.

There are also two journals belonging to Alexander D. Bunker, Keeper of the Sankaty Light. A transcription is available online for the first journal dating 1853 to 1856. The journals include daily entries, details of weather, and ships seen.

Finally, the collection contains a receipt for oil signed by Zenas Fish, Superintendent of Lights for Nantucket District, for five 80-gallon oil cans received by Alexander D. Bunker and a newspaper clipping with an image of Omer Pacha, the Turkish General.


  • Box 1 Folder 1 Instruction manual, 1849
  • Box 1 Folder 2 Newspaper clipping and receipt, 1853–1858
  • Box 1 Folder 3 Journal of Alexander D. Bunker, 1853-1856
  • Box 1 Folder 4 Journal of Alexander D. Bunker, 1856-1860

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah Helm, July 2015.

Finding aid written Alison Barr, July 2018, with additional description by Sarah Lerner in October 2018.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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