The Coast Guard is really an amalgamation of five formerly distinct federal services. The following timeline reflects the establishment of those services and when they became part of what is now the United States Coast Guard.
- 7 August 1789 The service, eventually to be known as the US Lighthouse Service, was established under the control of the Treasury Department (1 Stat. L. 53)
- 4 August 1790 Congress passed 1 Stat. L. 145, 175 creating a service to enforce customs laws. Alternately known as the system of cutters, Revenue Service, and Revenue-Marine this service would officially be named the Revenue Cutter Service (12 Stat. L., 639) in 1863. This service was placed under the control of the Treasury Department.
- 7 July 1838 Service to provide better security of the lives of passengers on board of vessels propelled in whole or in part by steam is established under the control of the Justice Department(5 Stat., L. 304). This service later became the Steamboat Inspection Service.
- 14 August 1848 Congress appropriates funds to pay for life-saving equipment to be used by volunteer organizations (9 Stat. L. 321, 322).
- 30 August 1852 Steamboat Act established Steamboat Inspection Service under the control of the Treasury Department (10 Stat. L., 1852).
- 18 June 1878 U.S. Life-Saving Service established as a separate agency under the control of the Treasury Department (20 Stat. L., 163).
- 5 July 1884 Bureau of Navigation established under the control of the Treasury Department (23 Stat., L. 118).
- 14 February 1903 Department of Commerce and Labor is created (32 Stat. L., 825). Bureau of Navigation and the Steamship Inspection Service transferred to new department.
- 28 January 1915 Life-Saving Service and Revenue Cutter Service combined to form the Coast Guard (38 Stat. L., 800).
- 6 April 1917 With the declaration of war against Germany the Coast Guard was transferred by Executive Order to the control of the Navy Department.
- 28 August 1919 Coast Guard reverted to Treasury Department with President Wilsons Executive Order 3160.
- 30 June 1932 Steamboat Inspection Service and Bureau of Navigation combined to form the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection (47 Stat. L., 415). The new agency remained under Commerce Department control.
- 27 May 1936 Public Law 622 reorganizes and changes the name of the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection Service to Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (49 Stat. L., 1380). The Bureau remained under Commerce Department control.
- 1 July 1939 Lighthouse Service became part of the Coast Guard (53 Stat. L. 1432).
- 1 November 1941 President Roosevelts Executive Order 8929 transferred the Coast Guard to Navy Department control.
- 28 February 1942 Executive Order 9083 transferred Bureau of Marine Inspection temporarily to the Coast Guard under Navy Department control.
- 1 January 1946 In compliance with Executive Order 9666, the Coast Guard returned to Treasury Department control.
- 16 July 1946 Pursuant to Executive Order 9083 and Reorganization Plan No. 3 the Bureau of Marine Inspection was abolished and became a permanent part of the Coast Guard under Treasury Department control.
- 1 April 1967 Executive Order 167-81 transferred Coast Guard to the newly-formed Department of Transportation.