This August marks the 226th birthday of the U.S. Coast Guard, originally created as the Revenue Marine in August 1790 by Congress. The Revenue Marine was formed at the request of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, as an armed service to collect and enforce customs duties at U.S. ports. Though the Continental Navy was created before the Revenue Marine (in 1775), the Navy’s disbandment between 1790 and 1798 makes the Coast Guard the oldest continuous maritime service in the U.S.
By 1894, the Revenue Marine had officially taken on the name the Revenue Cutter Service. Then, in 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service was combined with the U.S. Life-Saving Service to create today’s Coast Guard; in 1939, the U.S. Lighthouse Service was also incorporated, as was the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation in 1942.
The Coast Guard originally operated under the Department of the Treasury (1790), then the Department of Transportation (1967), and finally the Department of Homeland Security (2003); during World Wars I and II, it was temporarily moved to the Department of the Navy. In fact, as one of the nation’s armed services, the Coast Guard has participated in every U.S. conflict since its formation in 1790. The three main roles of today’s Coast Guard are maritime safety, security, and stewardship.
Fold3 has hundreds of thousands of search results relating to Coast Guard history. Listed below are just a few:
- Disapproved Navy Survivors Pension File for Alexander McBride, a Revenue Marine veteran who served 1846-48
- Civil War era photos of Revenue Marine captains H.B. Nones and J. Faunce
- Account of the grounding of the USS Harriet Lane, a revenue cutter, during the Civil War
- 1908 and 1913 Washington Post articles about the Revenue Cutter Service
- Document regarding the combination of the Revenue Cutter Service and Life-Saving Service to form the Coast Guard in 1915
- Documents relating to the proposed (but never passed) legislation in 1919 to permanently transfer the Coast Guard to the Navy Department
- WWII War Diaries for the Coast Guard in the 3rd, 6th, and 14th Naval Districts; for the Coast Guard Air Station, Salem, MA; and others
- Images of insignia and hats assigned to the SPARS (Coast Guard Women’s Reserve)
- Navy Cruise Book for the USS Wakefield, a Navy troop transport ship operated by the Coast Guard, documenting its WWII cruise history
- Photos of some WWII era Coast Guardsmen and SPARS personnel
- Medal of Honor citation for Douglas Albert Munro, the only Coast Guardsman to be awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumously for actions in 1942)