January 21 - The Lifesaving Service begins here

1961: The "Kennedy Inaugural" Storm
J. W. Dalton's "The Life Savers of Cape Cod"

1873: Life-saving stations on Cape manned for first time

On this day in 1873, a series of stations on the Outer Cape built for the newly created U.S. Life Saving Service were manned for the first time.

Situated astride the heavily trafficked shipping lanes between New York and Boston and thrust 40 miles out to sea from the mainland, Cape Cod had gained a notorious reputation among mariners. Over the centuries, it became a graveyard to more than 3,000 shipwrecks.

"It is the shallow bars several hundred yards off the beach that present the greatest danger," reads a National Park Service online history of the Life Saving Service. "Here is where storm-driven ships ground, break into pieces under the pressure of tons of raging water, and spill their fragile contents and occupants into the bone-chilling surf."

Many decades earlier, in 1785, the Massachusetts Humane Society had created the world's first lifesaving service by building shelters stocked with food and provisions in Boston Harbor. The Society expanded its outposts to the Cape in the early 1800s, but it could not provide continuous services due to the volunteer nature of its workforce.

In 1872, Congress authorized funding for lifesaving stations with paid employees as part of the Treasury Department. Nine stations were built on the Outer Cape: Race Point, Highlands, Peaked Hill Bars, Pamet, Cahoon Hollow, Nauset, Orleans, Chatham and Monomoy Point.

By the early 20th century, several important developments had dramatically reduced the frequency of shipwrecks around the Cape - sturdier steel-hulled vessels, improved weather forecasting, wireless communications and the opening of the Cape Cod Canal in 1914. Just a year later, the Life Saving Service was incorporated into the newly-formed Coast Guard, ending the era of Life Savers on the Outer Cape.

You can visit the historic Old Harbor Lifesaving Station shown above on right on Race Point in Provincetown. John Fitts photo.

1961: The Kennedy Inaugural Storm

On this day in 1961 a big snowstorm moved into the Washington, D.C., area on the eve of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. The snow was over before the ceremonies got underway, but nearly 8 inches of snow was on the ground in the nation's capital when Kennedy took the oath of office. The storm affected a broad area from Virginia to New England and was accompanied and followed by very cold temperatures.

Meanwhile Cape Cod got hammered with 15 inches.

Art courtesy of AccuWeather.com.

CapeCodToday.com welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on CapeCodToday.com.