The modern lighthouse lantern and lens system is a far cry from the
patented "magnifying and reflecting lantern," bought by the Government in 1812.
This apparatus is described as consisting of a lamp, a reflector, and what was called
the "magnifier." The reflector was a thin piece of copper shaped like the side of an
inverted cone, with the luster of tinware. Attached to a circular iron frame in front
of the reflector, was a lamp burning whale oil. Before this was a so-called "lens"
of bottle-green glass shaped like the bull's-eye of a ship and supposed to have
some magnifying power. The entire apparatus was enclosed in a massive wrought-
iron lantern, glazed with panes 10 by 12 inches in size. The effect of the whole
was characterized by one of the inspectors as "making a bad light worse," but later
this system was commended for its great saving in oil.
For years a power light was the rule and a good light the exception, but the
Lighthouse Board did away with the reflector system in 1852 and replaced it by
the Fresnel lenticular apparatus. Soon the lenticular, or doubly convex, system was
in general use and was adopted for St. Augustine Light at the time of its
"Nothing can be more beautiful," says the great Scotch lighthouse engineer,
Alan Stevenson, "than the entire apparatus for a fixed light of the first order. It
consists of a central belt of refractors, forming a hollow cylinder six feet in diameter
and 30 inches high; below it are six triangular rings of glass, ranged in cylindrical
form, and above a crown of thirteen rings of glass, forming by their union a