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The Francis Metallic Lifecar

Twin Lights in 100 Artifacts: #3

As Captain Ottinger of the U.S. Revenue Marine set about outfitting the newly established rescue boathouses with equipment, he was determined to provide the best rescue equipment and boats then available. Joseph Francis, a New York area manufacturer of lifeboats for ships, was hired to supply galvanized, corrugated iron surfboats and lifecars.

Captain Douglas Ottinger
Joseph Francis

It would not be long before the newly founded organization was to provide itself in grand style. In the early hours of the morning of January 12, 1850, the Brig Ayrshire ran aground on a sandbar 200 yards off Squan Beach, New Jersey. Keeper John Maxon decided that launching a boat in the blinding snowstorm was too dangerous to attempt and began the very first rescue using the Beach Apparatus to send a lifecar to the distressed ship. Working diligently, the all-volunteer crew was able to save 201 of the 202 souls aboard.

Illustration from History of Lifesaving Appliances and Military and Naval Constructions by James L. Pond

The lifecar on display is one of the very few remaining early models of the Francis metallic lifecar, designed to hold four to six adults inside lying down on top of each other. The lifecar would ride suspended under a hawser line that ran from the beach to the shipwreck and was pulled back and forth from the beach to the shipwreck using separate whipline.

Staff Photo, October 19, 2019.