West Sea Company

New This Week:

Prices in U.S. Dollars are listed in GREEN.

3.40  EARLY BOXED COMPASS.  Particularly fine first half of the 1800’s gimbaled dry card steering compass.  This near pristine example of English manufacture has a mica card overlaid by an engraved paper compass rose marked in points of the compass.  The cardinal and intercardinal points are identified.  It is further divided down to ½ half points.  Of significance and telling of it age is the fact that the East point is decorated with floral flourishes.  The large center brass pivot with agate cap overlays an 8-pointed star burst.  It is housed in a heavily weighted brass bowl with wavy glass cover.  The compass bowl is slung in a substantial cast brass gimbal ring which is mounted by unusually nice brass fasteners in its solid oak box.  The box is of highest quality construction with dovetailed finger joints and is complete with its original splined sliding oak lid.  The outside of the box bears the oval brass label of “J.S. & W. LORD, Birmingham.”  The compass itself measures 4 inches in diameter.  The box is 6 1/8 inches square and 5 inches high.  Truly outstanding original condition in every respect.  The compass card is clear and bright.  The brass bowl retains the majority of its original lacquered surface.  The box is in its original finish with no chips, cracks or losses.  A real keeper if ever there was one.  Over 150 years old!  489

The earliest recorded reference of a compass used in the Western world took place during the Crusades from Europe to the Holy Land in the 11th century A.D.  It was during these Crusades to the Middle East that the Christian cross became symbolic of the destination of the Crusaders as designated by the "East" point on the compass rose.  The centuries old tradition of the "decorated East" remained with mariners until the early 1800’s.


Order Info

5.69    LIGHTHOUSE PLAQUE.  Extremely rare and highly sought after genuine U.S. Lighthouse Service sign which was affixed to the side of a lighthouse.  This genuine sign is made of thick porcelainized metal and dates to the early 1900’s, typical of such signs of the period.   It reads:

All Persons Are Warned Not To
Trespass On This Structure Or
Interfere With It In Any Way.
Violators Assume All Risk And
Will Be Prosecuted.
By Order of Commissioner of Lighthouses

In rich blue, it measures 6 ½ by 9 inches and has 6 mounting points reinforced with hand-fitted brass grommets.  It is in outstanding original condition with only a few minor surface scuffs, but absolutely no damage.  A great rarity in Lighthouse collectibles… the first we have ever seen offered for sale!  895

In 1789 Congress passed an Act creating the United States Lighthouse Establishment (USLHE) which was operated by the Department of the Treasury.  The Act also transferred ownership of all existing private American lighthouses to the U.S. government.  In 1852, the United States Lighthouse Board was created.   The Act dissolved the prior administration of lighthouses under the Treasury Department's Lighthouse Establishment.  The board consisted of six senior Naval officers governing 12 lighthouse districts, each having a Naval inspector who was charged with building lighthouses and maintaining their good working order.  The Lighthouse Board immediately set to installing state-of-the-art Freznel lenses in all newly-built lighthouses. The Board also oversaw the construction of the first lighthouses on the West Coast.  By the Civil War, all U.S. lighthouses had Freznel lenses.  In 1886, electricity was tested to illuminate the Statue of Liberty.  Thereafter the lighting of the statue was the Lighthouse Board's responsibility.  It remained such until 1902, when the “modern age in lighthouse illumination” began.   In 1900, the Lighthouse Board started converting lighthouses to electric service. 

In 1910, the Board was changed in favor of a civilian run “Lighthouse Service.”  It is uncertain as to exactly when the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment became the U.S. Lighthouse Service.  Both terms for the agency appear to have been used interchangeably in the second half of the 19th century. 

In 1939 the U.S. Lighthouse Service itself was disbanded and merged with the U.S. Coast Guard. 


Order Info



10.67/22.39  SUBMARINE BAROMETER.  Very scarce U.S. Navy Manometer (Pressure Barometer) from a World War II diesel submarine.  This highest quality instrument is boldly marked “U.S. NAVY Bu. Nav. Aneroid Manometer, Compensated” at the top of the silvered brass dial.  It is further marked “Taylor Instrument Companies Rochester, N.Y., U.S.A.” at the bottom.  The handsome silvered open face dial reveals the complex movement within.  The dial is calibrated in inches of mercury atmospheric pressure from 28 to an amazing 37.9 inches, marked in tenths.  The pressure reading is shown by the black indicator needle which is overlaid by the brass set needle attached to the exterior knurled knob through the glass.  This unit is housed in its original solid brass bulkhead mounted case measuring 6 ½ inches in diameter on the flange.  The back of the case is engraved “U.S. NAVY BU. SHIPS (N) 1943.”  The fact that this barometer/monometer reads well in excess of the normal high of 31 inches on an average barometer indicates it was used in the pressurized ambient environment found only on submerged submarines!  Outstanding original condition in all respects.  It is fully functional and very accurate.  The pure brass case is in amazing original condition with its bright brushed brass in a lacquered finish.  895



Order Info



12.67   HISTORIC BOOKENDS.  Finest quality early 1900’s bookends commemorating the most historic Naval engagement of the War of 1812 between the USS CONSITITUTION and HMS GUERRIERE.   These exceptional bookends were cast of solid bronze by America’s premier art brass company Bradley & Hubbard as marked on the back of each with the “B&H” trademark.  In high relief they depict the famous battle with guns blazing and flags flying.  The detailed vignettes are encircled by a rope border with a wavy cresting sea extending outward on each base.  These bookends have a rich statuary bronze finish.  They measure 5 ¼ inches wide by 4 inches high and 2 ½ inches deep, and collectively weigh 6 pounds!  Perfect original condition.   Certainly one of the best pair of bookends we have ever encountered.   The pair 495

When the United States declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812, the Royal Navy boasted 85 ships in American waters.  By contrast, the fledgling U.S. Navy had only 22 commissioned vessels.  The first major battle of Naval combatants was the action between the USS CONSTITUTION and His Majesty’s Ship GUERRIERE which took place on August 19, 1812 about 400 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  In the course of the intense broadsides fired by both ships a cannonball shot by GUERRIERE bounced off the side of CONSTITUTION with no effect causing a crewman to exclaim, "Huzzah!  Her sides are made of iron!"  That incident lead to her forever famous nick name “Old Ironsides” remaining to this day.   During the intense close-in fighting the two ships became enmeshed and slowly rotated clockwise until they broke free.  GUERIERRE’s foremast and mainmast had been shot off at deck level, leaving her helpless and rolling heavily, providing Captain Isaac Hull’s acceptance of British Captain Dacres’ surrender.   The Americans then proceeded to humanitarianly remove the enemy ship’s crew then set it on fire.  After the defeat, CONSTITUTION returned to Boston with her prisoners and news of the victory.  The successful encounter provided a major boost in American moral which endured through the war until Britain’s ultimate defeat, which lead to the undisputed sovereignty of the United States thereafter.  Super historic!

The Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company (1852–1940) was started in Meridian, Connecticut by co-founders Nathaniel Bradley and Walter Hubbard.  The firm began producing high quality brassware, including brass tables, bells, candlestick holders, clocks, match safes, lamps, architectural grilles, railings and more.  In its long tenure the company patented 238 designs and mechanical devices.  "By the 1890's, the Bradley and Hubbard name was synonymous with high quality and artistic merit," according to Richard Stamm of the Smithsonian Institution.  The Smithsonian has an extensive collection of Bradley and Hubbard objects in its collection.  A stand manufactured by the Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company, Meriden, circa 1885 is exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

In 1940, the business was sold to the Charles Parker Company.

As of 2016, over 175 Bradley & Hubbard designs are in North American museums and collections, including the Baltimore Museum of Art;  the Brooklyn Museum; the Canadian Center for Architecture in Montreal;  Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh;  Connecticut Historical Society; The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan;  The Historic New England organization in Boston;  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York;  The Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, NY;  The Smithsonian in Washington; The Wadsworthe Atheneum in Hartford;   The Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven;  and The James Blackstone Memorial Library in Branford, Connecticut.



Order Info


14.32 WALL MIRROR. Splendid, second half of the 19th century American wall mirror containing a broadside portrait of the USS VANDALIA as painted by listed artist James Scott Maxwell. This very handsome presentation consists of a carved walnut frame with columns carved in the form of rope twists. The top of each column is finished with decorative beading. They support the overhanging cover which is inset with 11 "tear drop" finials and a scalloped border. The remainder of the frame has repetitively beaded panels matching the columns. The large mirror in the bottom reflects its age with its old wavy glass construction.The crowning touch of this presentation is the fine watercolor entitled "United States Corvette "Vandalia". 8 Guns. 2000 Tons 1874." At the bottom and is signed lower left "JSM 1878". This port broadside view shows the staunch vessel at anchor with commissioning pennant streaming from the main mast and the American ensign flying aft. Several crewmen are depicted on deck along with rigging details and deck fittings. The painting measures 9 1/4 inches by 6 inches sight. The entire presentation measures just short of 32 inches high by 16 1/2 inches wide at the top. Condition is "excellent" in every respect. The painting, under old wavy glass, is perfectly preserved. The wooden frame is in its original old finish with a nice dry surface, just the way furniture collectors like them! The back of the mirror still retains its original brass hanging bracket at the top and is covered with old protective wooden panels with exhibit good oxidation. Price Request Special Packaging

The 8 gun screw sloop of war VANDALIA was laid down at the Boston Navy Yard in 1872 and commissioned on January 10, 1876. Soon after commissioning VANDALIA deployed to the Mediterranean where she spent the next 3 years with the European Squadron. It was during her European deployment that this painting by British artist Maxwell was rendered. In April 1879 she transferred back to the U.S. and the North Atlantic Squadron. She was home ported in Norfolk, Virginia for the next 5 years. It is likely that this mirror was manufactured during that time frame.

In October 1884 VANDALIA underwent extensive repairs at the Portsmouth Naval Yard, New Hampshire. Recommissioned on February 15, 1886 she deployed for the West Coast as the flagship of the Pacific Squadron. The next two years saw her operating in Hawaiian and Samoan waters as well as along the coasts of North and South America.

In October 1888, while undergoing repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, VANDALIA was again called to duty in Samoa due to increasing tensions between American and German interests there. While anchored in the harbor of Apia, Samoa on March 16, 1889 the American fleet was beset by typhoon force winds and mountainous seas. VANDALIA and her sister ship TRENTON sank despite heroic efforts of their crews. American casualties totaled 49 killed, 43 from VANDALIA alone. After the disaster the ships were declared a total loss and their scrap was donated to the Samoans.



Order Info


15.92    FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPH.   Original late 19th century, large format albumen photograph signed and identified by the noted Boston marine photographer Nathaniel L. Stebbins.  This handsome example is “blind signed” (impressed) lower right “N.L. STEBBINS Photo BOSTON.”  Then it is stamped in ink on the reverse, “N. L. STEBBINS.  MARINE  & LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER, 521 WASHINGTON ST. BOSTON, MASS.”  Further it is  pencil signed in the photographer’s own cursive hand, “Steam Yacht Aurora taken when moving 10 nautical miles per hour.”  This photo depicts the large 2-masted steam/sail yacht on the port beam.  The detail of this photograph bears close scrutiny under magnification showing 2 crewmen on the foc’scle, the vessel’s nameboard reading “AURORA” on the pilothouse, looming smokestack and at least 6 of the owner’s party on the fantail.  The image measures 9 3/8 by 7 ¾ inches sight and is matted on its original tan mat under the original old wavy glass measuring 13 ½ by 10 ½ inches.  It is housed in the original solid oak frame with fancy gilt liner measuring 20 by 17 inches overall.  The back retains its original single pine board backing held in with hand-cut square nails.  The overall presentation is in excellent original condition throughout.  395

Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins (1847 - 1922) is quite arguably the most famous American marine photographer in history.  His photographs documented an important era in the development of American maritime activities at a time when the industrial revolution was taking hold.  The revolution created sweeping technological and social changes in the activities of military, commercial and leisurely ocean travel.

In 1882, shortly after the introduction of the dry plate photograph, Stebbins became interested in photography.  The fast exposure time and ease of use, made photography more practical.  These photographic innovations, his interest in the sea, and the fact that he had virtually no competition, lead Stebbins to embark on a career as a maritime photographer.  In furthering his pursuits it is known that Stebbins was a member of yacht clubs both in the Boston and Marblehead, Massachusetts

Stebbins obviously sold a number of his original prints, but he also produced a number of books containing nautical images, including an illustrated coastal guide which was ground-breaking in its use of practical photography.  Stebbins’ images appeared in such well-known magazines as “The Rudder” and “Yachting.”

Spanning a career from 1884 to 1922, Stebbins took an estimated 25,000 photographs.  Of those about 60% were of marine subjects.   The remainder of his work comprised city scenes, theater, railroads and domestic interiors..

Stebbins published a number of books which depicted his maritime photography.  Of note was his innovative Illustrated Coast Pilot, which included actual photographs of landmarks and aids to navigation on the East Coast.  The first edition, published in 1891 covered the East Coast between New York and Maine.   The second edition of 1896 expanded the coverage to include the entire Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

Upon his death, Stebbins’ collection consisted of about 20,000 negatives, mostly glass plates, which were the usual medium for high-resolution negatives at the time.  The collection was purchased by another photographer.  Tradition holds that most were sold for scrap as greenhouse glass.

Today, only a few of the original plates survive in the Peabody Museum in Salem Massachusetts.  A precious few more are protected in the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia.  Thankfully, the bulk of the remaining collection (about 5,000 images total, of which a little over 2,500 are the original glass negatives) were rescued by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities by William Appleton, founder of the Society.

The steam auxiliary 2-masted schooner yacht AURORA was recorded in the 1895 edition of the “Annual Report of the Supervising Inspector General” dated September 9 – “Steam Yacht Aurora coming out of Salem Harbor, collided with a dory containing six persons, but no one was hurt.”



Order Info

 AUTHENTIC LIGHTHOUSE.   This is the ultimate!  Here is an exceptional opportunity to own a very historic relic of America’s rich maritime heritage embodied in the original lamp room from the famous Ballast Point Lighthouse, which served its sentinel duties in the channel of San Diego Bay from 1890 until 1960.  This incredibly well-preserved piece of history was built according to specifications laid out by the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1885.  A copy of the original specifications are included as are much printed references and photographs.  Erected in 1890, the 5th Order lighthouse was a significant aid to navigation in conjunction with the Point Loma Lighthouse (1850) poised at the entrance to San Diego Bay.   Ballast Point Light was situated further inside the massive bay on a point which jutted into the seaway which posed a hazard to shipping.  13 feet 10 inches high with a maximum width of 8 feet 8 inches.  Weight approximately 5 tons. It will require a crane and a flat bed truck for transport.  129 years old!  Price Request Special Packaging

Serious inquiries only please.  No telephone quotes.  This item has been nominated as a candidate for the National Historic Register, and is currently being considered by a number of museums, private lighthouse restoration groups and the U.S. Navy.   Clear title is guaranteed.  Please provide your qualifications for ownership and your intentions for use.  We reserve the right to select a deserving owner.   We have already soundly rejected a low ball offer of $25,000 – that being the original price of the lamp room in 1890!   A single 5th Order light house lens recently sold for $125,000.  This is the entire lamp room, much rarer, and probably the only one of its kind to ever be for sale again


On October 2, 1888, recognizing the need for a harbor light in the increasingly congested channel of San Diego Bay, Congress authorized $25,000 for the construction of a lighthouse to be built on Ballast Point.  Fashioned in the late Victorian style, the entire structure took 3 months to build beginning in March 1890.  The light was first lit on August 1st.  It was a sister of the lights at San Luis Obispo and Table Bluff, south of Humboldt Bay.  All were wood framed structures with attached living quarters.  The ironwork for the lantern was forged in San Francisco and carried south to San Diego by ship.  The French firm of Sautter, Lemmonier, & Cie. manufactured the Freznel lens for the Ballast Point Light in 1886.  The fixed 5th Order lens was visible for a distance of at least 11 miles.
When California was still part of Mexico the peninsula jutting into San Diego Bay was known as Punta del los Guijarros or “Pebble Point.”  For centuries cobblestones washed down by the San Diego River had been deposited on the point.  When California gained statehood in 1850 the point was renamed Middle Ground Shoal.  As time went on and merchant traffic in the harbor increased, many sailing ships found it convenient to load or discharge the stones as ballast.  The practice continued and eventually the name “Ballast Point” stuck.
Accompanying the Ballast Point lighthouse was a huge 2,000 pound fog bell in a wooden tower.  In 1928 it was supplanted by a single tone electric diaphone horn.

The first keeper of the light was John M. Nilsson, assigned duty on July 15, 1890.  The second was Henry Hall, who took the job on December 1, 1892.  Perhaps the most famous keeper was Irish born David R. Splaine, a Civil War veteran and veteran lighthouse keeper, who assumed the post in 1894, having served at Point Conception, the Farallons and San Diego’s own Point Loma light from 1886-1889.

In 1913 the original old kerosene lamp was replaced with an acetylene burner.  Acetylene gave way to electricity in 1928.  In 1938 a filter was fitted inside the 5th Order Freznel lens giving the light a distinctive green hue for recognition.  One of the last keepers of the light was Radford Franke who recalled receiving the order to “douse the light” upon the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

By early 1960 the light was deemed to be of no further service, so in June of that year the lantern room was removed to a salvage yard.  The wooden tower and its brick and mortar foundation remained a couple of years later until they too were declared structurally unsafe and demolished.  The bell tower continued to survive, mounted with a 375 mm high intensity lamp on its roof.  However the value of maintaining any light on Ballast Point diminished with the installation of harbor entrance range lights.  In the late 1960’s the bell and its tower were dismantled.  The tower found its way to a private residence in Lakeside, California.  The bell had a more circuitous later life.  It was purchased from a San Diego area junk yard in 1969 for its scrap value of 5 cents per pound!  The one ton bell remained on local private property until 1991, when it was put on loan to the San Diego Maritime Museum.  In 1999 the bell was transported to the son of the original buyer, living in Colorado.  Then in 2002, the bell finally found its way to the home of the owner’s granddaughter living in Vermont, where it rests to this day.
The story of the lantern’s later life is even more fascinating.  The nation was just recovering from the Cuban Missile Crisis between JFK and Khrushchev, when in 1964 the Cuban government cut off the fresh water supply to the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay.  By that time, an experimental desalinization plant had been in operation at Point Loma for 2 years.  The Navy hastily ordered it to be disassembled and shipped through the Panama Canal to Cuba.  A gentleman working as a crane operator during the process noted the shabby lantern room in a trash heap nearby.  He inquired as to the fate of the relic and was told it was salvage.  Asking if he could purchase it,  the yard foreman told him he could “have it” if he would haul it away.  With that, for the next 34 years the lantern room served as a gazebo in the backyard of the man’s residence in Bonita, California.  It was purchased by the present owners in 1998, fully refurbished, and then placed on public display ever since.  Now it is time for it to find its next new home.  According to the crane operator who delivered the lamp room it weighs approximately 5 tons.  It will require a crane and a flat bed truck for removal.

F. Ross Holland, “The Old Point Loma Lighthouse,” 1978, Cabrillo Historical Association, San Diego, California
Jim Gibbs, “The Twilight of Lighthouses,” 1996, Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, PA.
Kin Fahlen and Karen Scanlon, “Lighthouse of San Diego,” 2008, Arcadia Publishing, San Francisco
Kraig Anderson, “Forgotten Ballast Point “Lighthouse” Seeks New Home,” article in “Lighthouse Digest,” East Machias, Maine,  September – October 2011,  Vol. XX, no. 5 pages 34 – 37.
“Mains’l Haul,” a periodic publication of the San Diego Maritime Association, Summer 1990, Vol. XXVI,  No. 4, pp. 11-12.







Order Info

Back to Top