Lilac, 1892

Feb. 7, 2021

Lilac, 1892

Lilac: a shrub found in Europe and North America noted for its large panicles of fragrant pink-purple flowers.

Builder: Globe Iron Works, Cleveland, Ohio

Length: 155'

Beam: 26' 6"

Draft: 15' 2"

Displacement: 643 tons

Cost: $92,124.89

Commissioned: 3 August 1892

Decommissioned: 18 November 1924

Disposition: Sold on 3 March 1925

Machinery: 2 compound inverted fore & aft steam engines; 2 cylindrical single-ended coal-fired Scotch-type boilers; 800 IHP; single propeller

Performance & Endurance:


Deck Gear: Wood steam-powered derrick

Complement: 21

Armament: None

Electronics: None

Tender History:

The 1892 United States Lighthouse Tender Lilac was one of two sea-going tenders of the Lilac Class, the other being the tender Columbine.  These two tenders were authorized in 1890 and the contract for their construction was let the following year.

Lilac was assigned to the 1st Lighthouse District and served as an inspection tender.  She was based out of Portland, Maine, and replaced the old tender Iris.  She was overhauled in 1900 and was transferred to the 9th Lighthouse District at Puerto Rico, where she served until 1915.  She was then transferred to the 3rd Lighthouse District but was laid up in 1916 due to a lack of funding.  

During World War I she was transferred to the Navy by executive order of 11 April 1917.  Lilac patrolled off the east coast and in the Caribbean until the Lighthouse Service was returned to the Department of Commerce 1 July 1919.  She was laid up again in 1920.

She was sold in 1925 and saw service as the freighter Elma until at least 1938.


Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.  Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Douglas Peterson.  United States Lighthouse Service Tenders, 1840-1939. Annapolis: Eastwind Publishing, 2000.