Newburyport and the U.S. Coast Guard
Local cities have been heavily influenced by their location on the Merrimack River. Upriver cities used the strong current to power textile mills, and Newburyport’s ocean view led to shipbuilding and maritime trade. It is also the claimed ancestral home of the U.S. Coast Guard.
George Cashman, founder of Yankee Homecoming, the city’s annual mid-summer, week-long festival, was behind the 1950s effort to designate Newburyport as the Coast Guard’s official birthplace. His research revealed Newburyport to be the launch site for the first commissioned U.S. revenue cutter, the Massachusetts. Persistent lobbying paid off in 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation declaring Newburyport the birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard. However, the Coast Guard has resisted acknowledging the distinction, citing competing claims from other locations.
A group from the Newburyport Harbor Commission picked up Cashman’s charge; its goal was to make Newburyport a Coast Guard City, a Congressional designation given sparingly to cities that create a welcoming environment for Coast Guardsmen and their families. The U.S. Coast Guard Station Merrimack River is a popular choice for Guardsman interested in testing themselves against the most dangerous river mouth on the Eastern Seaboard.