Thursday, July 28, 2011

Naval Namesakes: Luce Avenue

---Christina Anderson, Curatorial Volunteer

Many streets, buildings, and institutions in Rhode Island are named to honor the Narragansett Bay area’s rich naval heritage. This regular feature to the museum’s blog provides a brief look at the people, places, and events behind the names.

Rear Admiral Stephen Bleecker Luce (1827-1917)   Founder of the Naval War College

Rear Admiral S.B. Luce, c.1888
Luce Avenue on Coasters Harbor Island, NAVSTA Newport is named for Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce. An 1847 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Luce was a fierce advocate for the naval education of recruits and officers. He was stationed in Newport during the Civil War as Instructor of Seamanship at the academy. While in this position he commanded the school ship USS Macedonian on her practice cruises with midshipmen. He also compiled and published the first textbook on seamanship in 1862. Luce later served as Commandant of Midshipmen (October 1865 to June 1868). He was instrumental in founding the nautical school at New York (now SUNY Maritime College) in 1874 and the Naval Training Station in 1883. 
Luce's crowning achievement was the founding of the Naval War College in 1884. As founding president, he envisioned the school as the highest level of professional military education and a "place of original research on all questions relating to war and to statesmanship connected to war, or the prevention of war."  Luce retired in 1889 but continued to teach at the college and remained active in naval affairs until his passing in Newport on July 28, 1917.

The navy has named three ships in his honor: USS Luce (Destroyer #99, later DM-4), 1918-1936; USS Luce (DD-522), 1943-1945; and USS Luce (DLG-7, later DDG-38), 1961-1995. Appropriately, the Naval War College and the United States Naval Academy have halls named after Luce as well.

View Larger Map
Street Sign Image by Christina Anderson
Luce Image, courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Mayflower Ship's Telescope, c. 1896

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

This ship’s telescope once belonged to the yacht Mayflower. Originally built for owner Ogden Goelet in 1896. Goelet acquired the telescope at Pascall Atkey & Sons, a yacht chandlery located in Cowes, Isle of Wight, where he sailed the yacht on occasion. Upon Goelet's untimely death in 1897, the vessel was sold to the Navy at which time the telescope was undoubtably removed by the family. After serving in the Spanish American War, the vessel eventually became a presidential yacht. Mayflower (PY-1), then under the command of NWC alum and future faculty member Cameron McRae Winslow, was used by President Theodore Roosevelt during negotiations to end the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. He also used the yacht when he visited the Naval War College to chair the 22 July session of the 1908 Battleship Conference.

Roosevelt ordered the General Board to convene a joint conference with the Naval War College to study the designs of the latest all-big gun battleships USS Delaware (BB-28) and USS North Dakota (BB-29) and make recommendations for the next class of ships, starting with USS Utah and USS Florida. In the photograph below Rear Admiral John P. Merrell, President of the Naval War College (right), and Commander William S. Sims, the president’s naval aide (left), welcome President Roosevelt as he steps ashore at the Coasters Harbor Island pier from the Mayflower's barge.


Gift of Mr. Robert Goelet to the Naval War College                                        1979.17.01

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Matthew C. Perry Cocked Hat, c. 1825

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

M.C. Perry's Cocked (fore-and-aft) hat

Today begins Newport's 28th annual Black Ships Festival which commemorates the historic achievements of native son Commodore Matthew C. Perry.  The day marks the anniversary of Perry's landing and first meeting with the Japanese at Uraga, in 1853. On his second expedition, he negotiated the Treaty of Kanagawa which ended two centuries of Japanese isolationism and made Perry a national hero. The Black Ships Festival celebrates the signing of the treaty, which brought the two countries together as trading partners. "Black Ships" is the term the Japanese used when referring to the commodore's fleet.

To mark the occasion, the museum has installed a new display case in the Perrys of Newport exhibit. One of the artifacts is the recently conserved cocked hat of Matthew C. Perry.  The hat dates to an earlier period in his long naval career. Though the expedition to Japan was his crowning achievement and the reason most learn about the naval officer in school, Perry served in several wars and affected substantial reforms in the navy. This hat is a reflection that the treaty with Japan was but one piece of the man's legacy.

He was appointed a midshipman in 1809 and served in the War of 1812, the Second Barbary War and the Mexican War. He also sailed to West Africa several times and in 1843 served as the first commander of the African Squadron with orders to protect American commerce and suppress the transatlantic slave trade. In the 1830s Perry founded the U.S. Naval Lyceum and helped to organize the first naval apprentice system. Often called the "Father of the Steam Navy," he commanded the first steam-powered warship, USS Fulton, and organized the first Naval Engineer Corps. Perry died in New York City in 1858 and was later buried in Newport's Island Cemetery along with his brother Oliver Hazard.

Detail of the "No.2" button
(Click to enlarge)
 This hat is dated between 1820 and 1830 when the gilt button at the loop of gold lace was in use for lieutenants and masters commandant. The regulations of 1820 established four types of buttons to identify different officers. According to James C. Tily's Uniforms of the United States Navy (Thomas Yoseloff, 1964), "The No. 2 button was to be worn by masters commandant, lieutenants commandant, lieutenants of line battleships, and mere lieutenants--an eagle looking to the right, perched on a branch and holding a shield with its left wing." Perry was promoted to lieutenant in 1813 and master commandant in 1826. In 1830 bullion was introduced in the hats for masters commandant and captains and all officers were authorized to wear the No. 1 button (showing an eagle with head turned left, perched on the stock of an anchor).

Gift of Commander John Meigs                                                                  72.07.01


Hat Images, Courtesy of Naval War College Museum
Perry Image, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pay Corps Officer's Uniform, 1918

--Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer
---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

Pay Corps Service Dress Blue Coat
On 11 July 1919, the Pay Corps was renamed the Supply Corps. Founded in 1795, the Supply Corps is a special branch of the Navy that is in charge of logistics, acquisition, and financial management of the Navy’s assets both afloat and ashore.  This week’s artifact is a United States Navy Pay Corps officer's cap and service dress blue coat dated just before the corps was renamed after the First World War.

The uniform was worn by Ensign James C. Flynn, a native of Providence, Rhode Island. Flynn served during the First World War and was stationed in Newport for a time. On 5 February 1918 Flynn enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve Force. He was quickly promoted to chief petty officer and was ordered to the newly-organized Officer Material School at Princeton University to take an Assistant Paymaster Study Course. In December he was appointed an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve. His service did not last long and on 7 February 1919, Flynn was honorably discharged from active service. 

Ensign J. Flynn, Providence, c.1918.
The service dress blue uniform coat differs drastically from the sack coat which preceded it and the double-breasted roll-collared suit jacket that replaced it in 1919. The coat is dark blue, single-breasted, and tailored like a military tunic with a high stand-up collar and falls just below the waist. The buttons are concealed by a fly-front and the coat is trimmed around the collar, front, bottom, and the side seams with lustrous black braid. The sleeves bear one line of gold braid signifiying the rank of ensign. Above the braid is the embroidered Pay/Supply Corps device: the sprig of three oak leaves and three acorns. The collar also bears the device superimposed over a fouled anchor.

Flynn’s service coat is both rare and impressive both for it remarkable condition and because, so-modified, this type of coat was in use for only four months (16 November 1918 and 17 March 1919)! The single-breasted tunic was introduced by the Navy in 1877 and saw service through the Spanish-American War and the First World War. Originally issued with lustrous black braid on the sleeves to denote rank, the more familiar gold braid was added to the sleeves in 1897.  The 1897 modification also introduced colored cloth (white for pay corps) in between the braids to denote the corps of the staff officer.  On 16 November 1918, less than a week after the armistice ending World War I was signed, the Navy authorized two changes to the service coat. Instead of just a corp device on the collar, the post-war coat featured the corps device superimposed on a fouled anchor. Secondly, the corps device was now placed above the cuff braiding (as is still done today) to replace the colored cloth in between stripes. On 17 March 1919, just four months later, the Navy discontinued the single-breasted service coat altogether and replaced it with the double-breasted suit coat with rolling turn-down collar modeled after the style adopted by the British Royal Navy. This style coat is still in use today. Flynn was commissioned a month after the 1918 regulation and was discharged one month before the coat was discontinued, explaining the near-perfect condition of this amazing artifact.

Detail of sleeve showing Pay Corps
oak sprig device over gold braiding.
 Detail of collar showing Pay Corps
 oak sprig device over fouled anchor.

A gift of Ms. Virginia Flynn                                                                                  1982.04

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Explosion at the Naval Torpedo Station, 1893

---Christina Anderson, Curatorial Volunteer

The Naval Torpedo Station (NTS), established on Newport's Goat Island in 1869, participated in testing and development of both torpedoes and the parts required for production. One of the components, of course, were explosives such as gun cotton. Tests conducted in Newport found this substance to be a suitable replacement for gun powder in torpedo warheads. On November 2nd 1882 the station was ordered to develop manufacturing of gun cotton for the navy. Full scale production was reached in 1884, and 10,000 pounds were produced with a staff of five. the exposive was widely used in torpedoes until around 1912.

The NTS gun cotton factory prior to the fire on July 3, 1893.
Working with explosives of any kind can be a dangerous undertaking. This was evident on July 3 1893 when an explosion wiped out the NTS gun cotton factory. The explosion was found to be caused by a fire that originated in the “picked-cotton room” where a machine picked apart raw English cotton. A foreign object in the cotton struck the teeth of the picker resulting in a spark that ignited the cotton. This fire spread through the wire netting in the top half of the door to loose cotton in the hallway. Dennis Mahan, first-class laborer, who was operating the picking machine, was alerted to the fire in the hall by a noise that resembled a door flying open and striking something. After discovering the fire, Mahan alerted the other staff to the situation by shouting "fire." First-class laborer Lauritz Julienssen was picking raw cotton by hand in another room and after hearing the call informed factory foreman Jeremiah Harrington.

The remnants of the factory after the explosion.
The fire spread to neighboring rooms and ignited a tank of dry gun cotton. The resulting explosion killed three men including Harrington, and injured ten others. These thirteen individuals were all working a hose attempting to fight the fire on the north end of the building. An investigation found that responders did not throw out dry gun cotton at the first alarm as directed. A further claim indicated improper use of the fire-fighting apparatus. The report suggested that had these actions been performed correctly, responders could have contained the fire and prevented the explosion.

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Friday, July 1, 2011

Exhibit of Early Printed Maps opens at the Museum

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer
---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

The Naval War College Museum is pleased to announce the exhibition, Envisioning the World: The First Printed Maps, 1472-1700. The exhibition features thirty maps of the world including the first known world map ever printed: a "T and O" style map produced by Saint Isidore, Bishop of Seville in the seventh century and printed in 1472. Also on display are a 1504 map of the world referencing the discoveries of Christopher Columbus and a map from the first modern atlas printed in 1570. The exhibit of maps from the collection of Henry Wendt is managed by the Sonoma County Museum and will appear next at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon. Two maps from the Naval War College Library and Museum collections will also be on display. Please click here for more information and to learn more about the maps featured in this exhibit.

Claudius Ptolemy, Untitled Map of the World, printed 1482.
Courtesy of Mr. Henry Wendt
The exhibit opens 1 July and closes 30 November 2011. Admission is free. The museum is open 10 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Mondays through Fridays throughout the year, and 12 noon-4:30 P.M. on weekends during June through September. Public access to the Museum with personal vehicle is through Gate 1 of U.S. Naval Station, Newport.  For reservations please call (401) 841-4052 at least one working day in advance. Reservations and photo identification are necessary for entry onto the Naval Station.