Curator of Navy Ship Models, this all-wood model dates back to 1901, and is one of the largest models in the museum's collection (second in size only to the museum's builder's model of USS America (CV-66)).
When the model was located at the Pennsylvania Building at Naval Station Norfolk (the museum's first home), a steam pipe burst, causing severe water damage to the ship. When a repair team from the Curator of Navy Ship Models began to work on the model, the group discovered this note from the ship's design team:
Francis T. Bowles, Chief Constructor
Washington Navy Yard
Model started July 12, 1901
by E.R. Marceron and H.K. Prossev and James Baker
Edwin Phillips made small boats [etc.]
Painting [etc.] by John Henry Walker
Joeh Evans, Quartermaster
this paper put in
model Aug. 8, 1901
& the model closed & glued together
"Francis T. Bowles" refers to Rear Admiral Francis Bowles, USN, who served as the Navy's chief architect and designed the Virginia-class battleships. His design--particularly the weapons arrangement--was controversial. Notice that there are four guns grouped together on the bow and stern of the vessel. The lower guns are 12-inch/40 rifles, typical guns for an American battleship. However, many people wanted the ship to have 8-inch/45 rifles, one of the Navy's most accurate weapons. The resulting debate and budgetary restrictions forced Bowles to produce a compromise that satisfied no one.
Built at Newport News Shipbuilding, Virginia served in the Great White Fleet, the 1914 Vera Cruz Expedition, and World War I, before being sunk as a target ship off the coast of Cape Hatteras in 1923.