At first glance these photo may seem ordinary but with a little backstory you will want to look again at these images of the USS Baltimore and Charleston on Commencement Bay in 1892. Called dreadnoughts, these navy warships were in between major moments in American history when these photos were taken. Just a year before, the Baltimore was moored at Valparaíso during the Chilean Civil War protecting U. S citizens as a squadron flagship. On October 16, 1891, a mob attacked a group of American sailors on shore leave from the USS Baltimore outside a bar called the True Blue Saloon.Two sailors were killed and eighteen were injured in the chaos. The diplomatic incident between Chile and the United States became known as the Baltimore Crisis and it would have been the background and subtext everyone in Tacoma knew when the ships sailed into the harbor.
Five years after these photos, the Baltimore joined Commodore George Dewey’s fleet during the Spanish American War and on the morning of May 1, 1898 entered Manila Bay and destroyed the Spanish fleet stationed there. USS Baltimore was second in line behind Dewey’s flagship, the USS Olympia. But no one in Tacoma watching that summer day in 1892, including the photographer taking these pictures, could have known what was ahead-that war with Spain in the Philippines would be happening at the same time prospectors were finding gold in the Klondike and that soon ships departing Tacoma would be carrying passengers to and from both destinations. Sometimes history just sails into your harbor.

10900153_10205039095753037_2821633044715762542_o

Written by tacomahistory

This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

2 comments

  1. Please research your naval history a bit closer. The term “dreadnought” did not come into general usage until the HMS DREADNOUGHT was launched She was the first “all big gun” battleships since she carried (8) 13″ guns (6 pointed forward and 2 pointed aft). All ships launched before her were referred to as “Pre-Dreadnoughts” and all launched after her were referred to as dreadnoughts referring to a major capital ship with (6) or more major caliber guns. Interestingly, the HMS DREADNOUGHT never fired a gun in anger, but she is considered the first in the line of all big gun battleships.

    Like

    1. Hi Richard, Thanks for the terminology correction. Its pretty obvious I’m not a naval historian. I used the dreadnaught term from an article about the Valparaiso affair and the American ships involved. So what happened to the namesake Dreadnaught if she never was in a wartime engagement and never used the guns? Scrapped? Sounds like an interesting story indeed.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s