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The fleet finished port visits around the Mediterranean and by January 31st started arriving in Gibraltar. Gibraltar was a final stop for fueling and preparing for the trans-Atlantic crossing. They departed on February 6th for the journey home.
the rock of gibraltar
In 1896 Prudential Life Insurance started using the "Rock of Gibraltar" as a company symbol of their strength and permanence. "Get a Piece of the Rock" and "Strength of Gibraltar" were early slogans. In 1909 the symbol was briefly changed to include the Great White Fleet.
The advertising at right was placed in many magazines to include: "A copy of this inspiring picture in colors will be sent fee if you will write, requesting it, to Department 47, The Prudential Insurance Company of America. John F. Dryden, President."
The above four panel set postcard shows the American and Russian Fleet in port in late January/February 1909. Near the center can be seen the American battleship behind the Russian cruiser in the photograph above. These cards were published by A. Beaquen, Tangier. The same set of cards was issued "in color" at a later date.
a card from staten island
Post cards were collected from sailors and many people wished them canceled in the port they were visited or, after the ship post offices were opened, on the ships. The card at left was mailed to sailor Jefferson on the USS Ohio to be canceled. He received the letter from Mabel Davis while in Gibraltar and had the ship's postal clerk stamp the date, "February 2, 1909" but it did not get mailed until they returned to Norfolk and dated March 3, 1909.
The cards above are all postmarked by ships of the fleet, some while in Gibraltar, and some postmarked after returning to Hampton Roads. Cards from around the town and the classic photo of the rock.
The above cards are from the M. R. Battey collection showing the ships that were in the harbor. It appears that the photographer did not get a chance to go ashore and instead spent his time with photos of the port.
Rock from the Bay " Gibraltar - "We leave here for home tomorrow Saturday the 6th. Best regards to all. Write soon. C.V. March, Ohio"
the fleet mail service
It is not always clear when a sailor might have put a letter in the ship's outgoing mail by the cancellation it received. These two cards from scenes in Gibraltar are sent to Miss Elsa Marstan of Berkely, California and are cancelled on March 4th, well after the ship had returned. From my experience, mail that used the " old Franklin" where cards that were mailed before returning, and cards using a "new Franklin" were mailed after returning to Hampton Roads. It is clear that the supply of stamps provided the ships did not include the "new Franklin" and that they might have been only a few remaining upon return to Hampton Roads by the changes seen. My postmark page and the Hampton Roads page seems to bear this out.
It is possible that these two cards were in the ship's post office from before departing Gibraltar and possible that the sailor pre-purchased stamps and only got around to sending these cards in March.