Thursday, January 27, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Powder Measures

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

12.5 lb. powder measure
This week’s artifact takes us back to the Age of Sail when loading a naval gun was a much more labor intensive system than it is today.  Today’s post spotlights a pair of copper powder measuring cups, a vital component to a vessel's ability to properly arm their guns for firing. One of the measures is inscribed,  “I. LB” and the other is inscribed, “12.50 LBS., ORD., 1857” along with an anchor stamped into the metal.

Powder measures such as the two in the museum’s collection were standard issue to vessels in the Age of Sail. Explosive black powder was used to propel a projectile towards a target. The powder was pre-prepared in a canvas sack and loaded down the barrel of the gun before the shot. The measures, like a ship's powder magazine, were made of copper to prevent sparks from accidentally igniting the powder. A ship was provided with several of these measures based on the number of guns the vessel carried. According to Instructions in Relation to the Preparation of Vessels of War for Battle, published by Order of the Navy Department in 1852, "Powder measures for filling cartridges will be made at the Navy Yard, Washington, and distributed as they may be required for the use of vessels and shore magazines. They will be marked with the weight of powder which they will contain, and will be cylindrical, and of the following interior diameters, viz: For 64 pdr. shot guns...7 inches/For 10 inch shell guns with 42pdr. cylindrical chambers, 6 inches/For 8 inch shell guns with 32 pdr. cylindrical chambers, 5.5 inches/For all 32 pounder shot guns, ...5.5 inches. These diameters are the same as are prescribed for the cartridges of the respective guns, and will consequently always form standard gauges with which the cartridge formers may be compared and verified."

1 lb. powder measure

A ship would carry at least one measure for every type of large gun that the vessel contained in order to properly measure out the right amount of powder it would need to fire. Properly loading a cannon or deck gun with powder was essential, as too little could cause the weapon to misfire and too much could cause the gun to explode in place from the strain. The measure marked for 1 pound was likely used to prepare charges for a 12 pdr. Dahlgren boat howitzer, while the measure marked 12.5 pounds prepared the 12.5 lb. charge required for a X-inch smoothbore Dahlgren gun which fired a 124 lb. solid shot or a 101.5 lb exploding shell.

The copper measuring cups were donated to the War College in 1997 by Captain Maddox N. P. Hinkamp of Jamestown, RI. The donor indicated that the measures belonged to one of his late wife’s grandfathers, Commodore James B. Parker or Captain Charles E. Colahan, who were both distinguished naval officers.

Images Courtesy of Naval War College Museum and Naval History and Heritage Command

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Model of USS CUSHING, First Ocean-Going Torpedo Boat

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

Sratch-built Model of the Torpedo Boat USS Cushing

On January 23, 1890 the USS Cushing, the Navy’s first steel-hulled ocean going torpedo boat was launched from the Herreshoff Boat Yard in Bristol, Rhode Island. This week's blog post spotlights a scratch- built 1/32 scale  model of Cushing purchased from its builder,  Pasquale J. "Pat" Bianco of Cranston, RI in 2000. To construct the 52" long model, Bianco used original plans and blueprints from the Herreshoff Company. He molded and poured the brass and white metal components and obtained wood from an ornamental cherry tree to create the deck grating on the model. Even the miniature torpedo in one of the tubes is made of brass like the original.
The torpedo boat was named for Lt. William B. Cushing (1842–1874), the Civil War naval hero who sank the Confederate ironclad Albemarle with a spar torpedo in 1864.  The boat was 140 feet long, had a 15' 1" beam, a 4’10” draft,  and traveled at a top speed of 23 knots. Armed with three tubes equipped to fire Howell MK1 torpedoes, Cushing was used for experimental purposes at the Newport Naval Torpedo Station for much of her career. In 1893 she was converted to fire Whitehead torpedoes and altered with swiveling torpedo tubes.  USS Cushing played an important role in the naval history of Narragansett Bay during her extensive service testing new weaponry and training torpedo boat crews at the Torpedo Station. The training and testing done at Newport greatly improved the effectiveness of the other Cushing-class torpedo boats and their successors.

During the Spanish-American War (1898), USS Cushing was sent to Havana where she captured four small vessels and aided the USS Gwin in the capture of a 20-ton schooner. After this service, Cushing resumed torpedo testing  in Newport until she was sent to Norfolk Navy Yard where she served in their Reserve Torpedo Flotilla from 1901 to 1911. In 1920 Cushing  ended her career as it began when was sunk as a target for training and testing.

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Photographs of the Birth of Naval Aviation, 1911

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

Eugene Ely's Curtiss Biplane takes off from USS Pennsylvania
 This week’s post is about a collection of photographs commemorating the first aircraft landing on a warship. On January 18, 1911, aviator Eugene Burton Ely (1886-1911) landed his Curtiss pusher biplane on the deck of the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania (ARC-4) and ushered in the first one hundred years of naval aviation.

Eugene Ely lands on USS Pennsylvania
The previous November, Ely performed the first flight from a moving vessel to land, when he took off from the cruiser USS Birmingham at Hampton Roads. Ely’s aircraft for the Pennsylvania landing was a biplane made of bamboo, fabric, and wire with a 26-foot-long body and a 30-foot-long wingspan. The aircraft sported a 50 horsepower “pusher” engine and was strapped with a pair of aluminum floats and hooks on the landing gear. Pennsylvania was fitted with a temporary wooden landing platform over her aft deck, canvas awnings, and twenty-two ropes held down by sandbags for the hooks on Ely’s plane to catch.  Protected only by a football helmet and a pair of bicycle inner tubes crossing his body, the twenty-four-year-old pilot took off from Tanforan Racetrack south of San Francisco and headed for the cruiser anchored in San Francisco Bay. At 11 AM, fighting strong unfavorable crosswinds, Ely landed on the Pennsylvania's deck in front of hundreds of spectators. After taking a short lunch with his wife and the ship's captain, Ely took off and landed back at the racetrack.

Ely and his Curtiss Biplane
Ely’s flight helped solidify the bond between the Navy and the field of aviation. Prior to this event,  most naval officials and members of Congress  were more interested in "big gun" battleships than in the possibilities of aviation. Captain Washington Irving Chambers, appointed to handle correspondence on aviation-related matters, fought diligently to prove the concept and importance of naval aviation.  It was Chambers who worked with both Ely and Glenn Curtiss, the maker of Ely’s airplane, to organize both of these historic flights.  Unfortunately, Ely was killed on October 19, 1911 when his airplane crashed at an exhibition in Georgia. It took more than a decade for the Navy to commission its first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV-1) in 1922 but this historic flight laid the groundwork for all that followed during a century of naval aviation.  In 1933 he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross “for his extraordinary achievement as a pioneer civilian aviator and for his significant contribution to the development of aviation in the United States Navy.”

Ely returns to shore
 These photographs, produced and sold to commemorate the event were acquired by Seaman Joseph Collins of Troy, Illinois. During his naval service from 1909-1911, Collins served on USS Pennsylvania, USS California, and USS Oregon.

A Starboard Profile of USS Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay

 Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Sailor's Ostrich Egg from USS Enterprise, 1889

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer
1. Seaman Andrew Raiche's Ostrich Egg
This week's artifact blog is about an ostrich egg acquired by a sailor during a late nineteenth century cruise on the European Station. Seaman Andrew Raiche purchased and decorated the egg during his two year voyage on board the steam powered sloop of war USS Enterprise.

2. Officers and Crew of USS Enterprise Muster on Deck, 1890
 Enterprise, the fifth ship to bear the name, was launched July 13, 1874 at Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. In 1888, under the command of Commander Bowman H. McCalla, she departed Boston to join the European Squadron. McCalla, famous for leading the invasion of Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American War and for later service in the Boxer Rebellion, was also on the Naval War College faculty in the 1890s. During the next two years, the screw sloop sailed off Europe, the Mediterranean, and the east coast of Africa.

The piece is dated "Zanzibar, May 18, 1889" and bears the inscription "From Andrew to Mother. " Raiche scrimshawed a number of scenes he encountered along the cruise including a sphinx, a pyramid scene, ostriches, a cobra and mongoose, a butterfly, a locust, and a flower. According to the memoirs of the ship's executive officer, Lt. Royal R. Ingersoll, he and other crew members purchased ostrich eggs and feathers during their stops at the port of Aden in present day Yemen. Enterprise arrived at the port about a month before reaching Zanzibar and pulled in again about a week after their departure. Likely, Raiche acquired the egg during their first pass through the Suez Canal and completed it sometime before leaving Zanzibar. Andrew Raiche, a native of Maynard, Massachusetts, was a bugler aboard Enterprise. He enlisted in the navy in 1886 and was discharged in March, 1890 after the sloop sailed into the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn.

In 2006, Daniel Raiche of Cranston, Rhode Island donated his grandfather Andrew's ostrich egg to the museum. Formerly part of the "New Acquisitions" display, this popular artifact is now part of the exhibition, The Navy in Art located on the museum's first floor.

3. "From Andrew to Mother"

1,3. Naval War College Museum
2.   Naval History and Heritage Command

Monday, January 3, 2011

Centennial of Naval Aviation Programming Begins with Recent Lecture

---John Kennedy, Director of Museum Education and Public Outreach

There was standing room only at the December 2 Eight Bells Lecture held at the Naval War College Museum. The topic of the lecture was the recent book One Hundred Years of U.S. Navy Air Power published by the Naval Institute Press. Naval War College professor Doug Smith, the editor of the book and one of the fourteen contributors, has put together a book that is comprehensive in nature, easy to read, and recommended for the aviation enthusiast. Along with Professor Smith were three other contributors to the book and each took turns discussing his chapter.

L to R: Douglas V. Smith, Robert C. Rubel,
Stanley D.M. Carpenter, and Timothy H. Jackson
The year 2011 marks the centennial of naval aviation. Many have earned their wings of gold and many have paid the ultimate price for that honor along the way. It began with Eugene Ely flying a fifty-horsepower Curtiss pusher biplane and it continues to this day with men and women who fly the variety of aircraft in the inventory of the U.S. Navy.

As one who spent many years flying for the Navy, my reading of this book provided many revelations regarding the politics associated with growing the men and materials as we prepared for World War II, and each of the following wars; the costly transition from props to jets (both in terms of airframes and men lost); and the evolution of the aircraft carrier. Yet, the book is not just about carrier aviation. Lighter-than-Air (LTA), land based, helicopters, and unmanned vehicles are all represented.

The foreword to the book is written by former President George H. W. Bush. As a naval aviator during the Second World War, he knows the sacrifice and pride associated with being a naval aviator. Ultimately, as he states, this book “is a human drama” and “a tribute to the military families who served quietly in their own way” as their loved ones fulfilled their duty.

The Naval War College Museum will also be commemorating the centennial with the exhibit, "A Century of Naval Aviation" scheduled to open on January 13. The museum blog will feature posts on aviation-related artifacts in the museum's collection throughout the year and a special aviation photo slide show will be uploaded to this page soon.