Frank B. Lesher, Second Class Electrician, USS Virginia

This collection represents the largest and finest personal collection from a single individual of the Great White Fleet.   Frank Lesher was a unique participant of the cruise, he documented his trip in great detail, and he preserved those items once he returned.  He understood the historical context of the trip and the role he played.  This extraordinary collection was found and preserved by his granddaughter Leslie Joan Lesher 100 years later.  "This Great White Fleet Collection say untouched in my grandparent's attic for over 90 years.  The death of my parents led me to clean out the attic and drag back home an old chest whose contents were unknown to me.  As with too many people, we fail to know our ancestors.  My grandfather died before I was born.  In finding his collection I have been able to get acquainted with him for the first time."

The collection assembled by Frank includes more than 50 letters mailed home, certificates, photographs, booklets, postcards, and souvenirs that were meticulously collected and stored in a trunk upon arrival back home in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  It also includes a typewritten account of the trip prepared by Frank to share with his community.  So of his photographs included typed labels for displaying the photos indicating that Frank prepared a presentation of his trip to display for people to experience what it was like to steam around the world with America's battleship fleet.

Frank Lesher was born August 19, 1884 in Chambersburg, the son of Isaac and Lily Porter Lesher.  He was a graduate of the former Chambersburg Academy, attended Purdue University and was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.  He served in the Navy from 1906 to 1913 achieving the rank of Chief Petty Officer before leaving the service to start his own electrical contracting business which still operates today.  (link)


Below is the journal Frank completed after returning from the cruise.  Frank must have spent long hours of his spare time to draft and type this account understanding that someday people like us would want to read it.

One of the crew photographs within the items Frank Lesher saved from his journey is this shot of the officers of the Virginia while Seaton Schroeder was still in command. (seated in center)

The richness and depth of this collection provides an experience of what a sailor's life was like with his training, travels, and adventures.  With this collection I have included all of Frank's correspondence starting below with his postcards from when he was in basic training and visiting places along the east coast.


training in cuba

The base at Guantanamo Bay was leased in 1903 as a coaling station after the Spanish American War.  The lease was $2,000.00 in gold per year until 1934, when the payment was set to match the value in gold in dollars.  In 1974 the lease was set to $4,085.00.  Payments have been sent each year, but only one lease payment has been accepted since the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro claimed that this check ws deposited due to confusion in 1959.


The USS Virginia, because Jamestown was in Virginia, was a participant in the Exposition.  The Virginia was at the Exposition in early May and participated in many of the events.  The selection of cards that Frank sent home include sites of the exposition, nearby cities, and images of the foreign navy ships that participated in the exposition.


USS Virginia - hampton roads December 15, 1907

"It is now one-thirty on Sunday afternoon and as the last mail goes ashore tomorrow morning at six-thirty, I will  write my last letter to you now." 

"Was ashore yesterday for a short time.  The Chamberlin Hotel presents a scene of activity that I have not seen for a long time.  While ashore I saw the Vermont and Kansas play a game of football and coming back from the game, the bands of the two ships stopped in front of the hotel.  Admiral Evans came out from the hotel, and reviewed the men as they marched by.  I got the best view of him that I have ever gotten, also saw his wife."



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