Friday, April 12, 2013

U.S. Battleships in Hampton Roads, 1918: A Four Scene Storyboard

Included in the museum's collection are these four postcards shown below.  The postcards show a U.S. battle fleet at anchor in Hampton Roads, seen from the perfectly manicured grass of Fortress Monroe. The artist drew all four postcards from the same vantage point.  The fleet is depicted during four different times of the day: noon, afternoon, midnight, and early morning.  At first glance, the images look the same.  This would imply its publisher, the Asheville Postcard Company, was lazy and simply touched up one image.  There are, however, subtle differences.  Ships move in and out of the harbor, implying four unique drawings. 

Acknowledging the fact that the battleships are painted in a wartime (slate grey) paint scheme, the ships anchored in the harbor suggests the postcard's year is 1918.  During that year, the Navy mobilized and deployed to Hampton Roads.  Context clues give us some indication which specific ships the author was painting.  The battleship in the middle (in front of the lighthouse) is believed to be USS Wyoming (BB-32).  Other ships in the picture appear to be an older type of armored cruiser (a Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser).  Three "pre-dreadnought" battleships, such as USS New Jersey (BB-16) are also included in the images. Several  of these "Great White Fleet"-era warships, like New Jersey,  were utilized for convoy escort, training, and harbor defense duty.  If this is the case, this would not be the "U.S. Battleship Fleet" noted by the cards.  Rather, it would likely be a reserve squadron or one attached to the Naval Overseas Transport Service.

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