Frank B. Lesher, USS Virginia, Arrives on the West Coast

excused list of electricians

This is a muster sheet that was used for daily muster for liberty and working parties.  When the ship brought on ammunition, it was an "all hands" evolution.  Each shell passed from hand-to-hand down to the magazines.  These "working parties" would take hours.  Many of the positions were on a ladder to go below deck passing a heavy projectile to the next person.

The muster sheet at right was used by the "Chief Gunner" to excuse people from participating.  If they were bring on a load of ammunition that would take only a couple of hours, he might excuse half of the people on the list.  If someone was sick or had other responsibilities deemed more important he would be excused.

And some time, if you knew the right people, or had your senior speak up on your behalf, you were excused.

"Our trip up from Magdalena Bay was an uneventful one and last Tuesday we dropped anchor off Coronado Beach which is a peninsula which extends out from the mainland.   To reach the town we had to go around the break-water and then into the harbor of San Diego.  I have mailed you papers giving a map which will aid you grasp the lay of the land.

"This town is of comparatively recent origin and most of the building of the commercial district are of concrete construction.  The city is laid out in good shape being named in numbers and letters.  Fifth Street is the business street of the city.  The private residences are not built on a very pretentious scale, still they are solid and comfortable, with palm trees and flowers of all description growing around them.  Lemonade and flowers were given to all the sailors free of charge and today all the places of amusement will be thrown ope to the sailors."


The boundary monument shown in the postcard at right sent by Frank still exists.  Boundary monument #255 is at the San Ysidro Port of Entry sitting on the boundary with a wall erected to pass around it on three sides.  Initially in the 1870s there were no fences or borders only two customs houses by both governments.  In 1891 a flood destroyed the town of Tia Juana and most of the residences moved to higher ground, including  a new marker, about 1,000 feet from the old location on higher ground.

This monument became a tourist destination and was included as a stopping point for visitors to the City of San Diego.


Frank was a good tourist.  He took the time to purchase the nicer booklets about the cities he visited and sent them home to be enjoyed when he got home.  The below booklet of San Diego was too big for my scanner and was photographed using my phone.  One of the nicer booklets as all of the images are photo prints and have retained their contrast.  Enjoy!



As a Pennsylvanian, know that you can go anywhere and be met by your brothers!  This framed certificate was given to Frank by the Pennsylvania Society of Los Angeles.  Arriving in Los Angeles he became an honorary member when he visited their organization.

"Suppose you have received the Pennsylvania Certificate and that will explain to you what it means by keeping a record of  the men.  The Los Angeles people who originally came from Pennsylvania are, or rater took the names of all from Pennsylvania that registered at the Pennsylvania boot at the fair grounds and their names will all be sent in to the Pennsylvania Historical Society at Harrisburg for future generations to gase at in wonderment and reverence."

The event program for the members usually involved readings and music, followed by dancing and refreshments.  The address was 203 Mercantile Place in Los Angeles.


long beach, california

"Well we blew into this hospitable locality on last Saturday afternoon as you have seen by the papers and received a warm welcome.  On Sunday morning the fleet broke up into divisions, each division going to different places.  We are going to Long Beach.  Each place is from eight to ten miles apart from each other and flying about 22 miles from Los Angeles and it certainly is a city of Angeles judging from the way they treat the sailor boys.

Went ashore yesterday and had the most enjoyable time I have had in my life.  All men in uniform ride free on the trolley cars which are of a fine type for the climate conditions (see illustration in letter).  They run in two, three and four car trains and go like the wind.


santa barbara, california

"Was ashore at this port two days, namely Sunday and Wednesday.  On Sunday when I went ashore the first thing that I took in was a Presbyterian Church where I stayed until the hour of twelve,.  After this I had a chicken dinner and then took a trolley car out to the Santa Barbara Mission founded in 1784, and where the German priests in cowls and bare feet save for a leather sandals still tread the well worn corridors and cells or rooms.  It was built by the Indians under the direction of the priests, and has a chapel attached to the mission, where services are still held.  It has two old bell towers which are reached by means of spiral stone stairs. "  There is a beautiful boulevard which runs along the sea for a distance of several miles, and is lined with palms.  the Hotel Potter is located on this boulevard near the pier where we land."


"Coming back we stopped at Cawstons Ostrich Farm where I bought the ostrich egg which no doubt you have received by this time.  Paid a dollar for the egg.  Saw them picking ostrich feathers from off the bird and also little birds being raised by means of the incubator.  It takes 40-days to hatch a bird.  They have a factory on the ground where the feathers are prepared for the market but one cannot buy them any cheaper then you cold get them in the East.  They have 150 birds at the farm the average life of a bird is 30 - 40 years.


Frank lesher sees some tall trees in san jose

"As you have seen in the papers, the first squadron went from Monterey to Santa Cruz and we have been shown a fine time while here and had a chance to see the big trees of California.  Was ashore yesterday.  They rany free excursions out to the grove all day, it being six miles distant from the city.  It was a beautiful ride out to the trees and is up grade all the way until you reach an elevation of about three hundred feed where the grove is located.  It being on the Southern Pacific, the ride taking you through a canyon down which the San Lorenzo River runs and dashes.  Saw people fishing several hundred feet below.  They have the biggest grove of trees fenced in and civilians are charged a quarter to enter this enclosure, we were admitted free here also.  The largest tree is named Jumbo and is thirty feet in diameter.  There are others almost as large.  Under the roots of one of the giants which had been burned by the fire, fifty-five sailors were placed and then there was room for a few more.  It was at this grove that General Freemont wintered while he was out here on his Indian expedition, and I saw the tree that he cut down and hollowed out in order to make a vat where he could tan his leather to fix his harness."

the fleet arrives in San Francisco

Frank Lesher was not much of a postcard person, he would rather spend 50 times the amount of a postcard (50 cents) to by a nice souvenir booklet that provided large format photographs and panoramas of the attractions.  The California booklets in this collection are a great example.  He bought two in San Francisco!  The one below is unique.  The City of San Francisco, after being devastated by an earthquake in 1906 saw the fleet visit as an opportunity to let the country know that it had recovered and was ready for business.  "Two Years After the Quake" shows a vibrant city that is growing while the cover and one of the panoramas shows the fleet.  It was "The New San Francisco." 




arrival in the great northwest

Port angeles, washington

For those of you that are collectors you know how hard it is to find a card or a letter that was mailed from the fleet's visit to Port Angeles, Washington.  Frank Lesher wrote this letter upon arriving on the 21st and it was postmarked on the 22 of May in Port Angeles.

His description of the sites was quite accurate, "Coming in the Sound we could see large pieces of timber drifting around, enough to keep Chambersburg in fire wood for a year.  From where we are anchored we can see Canada very plainly.  There was a Canadian launch very much in evidence today making the rounds of the fleet.  The temperature is very much superior to that of Frisco, being warm and mild at this time of year."

Above is a nice photograph of the signalmen from the USS Virginia.  The photograph looks like it might have been taken on the flying bridge where a compass can be seen in the background.

Seattle, Washington


"It took us about six hours to make the run from Port Angeles up here and we had a fine day of the trip.  The water in the Sound is as smooth as a mill pond.  It would be fine sailing if we would strike that sort of weather all the time.  There were hundreds of boats of all sorts to meet us as we came into Elliot Bay as they call the Harbor.  It is a fine natural harbor, and from two hundred to four hundred feet of water wherever you take a sounding.  All the ships are anchored about three blocks away from the shore and we can see the city very plainly.  They have the best electrical display on the shore that I have so far seen.  Welcome signs are numerous and one hotel is a blaze of light, outlining all the curves of the building."


""We are now in dry-dock and the yard workmen say that the ship's bottom was in the best condition of any of the fleet that was docked at this yard.  We docked at ten-o'clock last night (June 22) and now the bottom is half painted.  We come out of the dock Thursday morning, and all hands re making preparations to beat the Georgia's record of 554 tons in one hour (coal).


Dear Papa,Received your letter of May 21st just at Tacoma and as we leave here tomorrow morning at 10:00 am for Bremerton Navy Yard, will answeer before we go.

Am sending you a Seattle paper for two weeks and a Tacoma paper from week. as.  As I did not know what business the Johnson's were in, I was unable to locate them in hte directory.  I took a look at the Johnsons and there was about 300 of them.  So I had to give up in despair.

Yes, We certainly have had a fine trip up the coast and this is our last official stop, on this part of the cruise.  Will enclose an itinerary of the trip as far as the Philippines.  As our ship belongs to the 2nd Squadron, we will get to stop at Amoy, China while the 1st Squadron will return to Manila from Yokohama.

I got ashore one in Seattle and it is a thriving city, but very hilly.  They are digging away many of the hills and making the town more level.  It has a fine harbor and where we where we anchored, right close to the docks the water was 250 feet deep.  We did not drop our anchor but made fast to a buoy or float.  We had visitors aboard by the thousands and many blow-outs for us.

Shield's brother, who works here came out to see me .  His brother having written him from Los Angeles that I was aboard the Virginia.  I as ashore with him on Tuesday and took in the sights.  We went up on the largest building in Seattle and got a fine view of the surrounding country.  They are retaking a large part of the sound by building walk and filling in behind them.

Tacoma is a fine town and I like it much better than Seattle as the people are more hospitable and one feels more at home in their city.  Sent you a view look of Seattle and one of Tacoma.  This place has also built on the side of a hill.  The main streets running parallel to the Sound.  They use cable cars on the steep grades and have a fine trolley service.  Six men were sent from each ship to go to the public schools and give a talk on the Navy.  I was one of the party that went from our ship.  We visited two schools, the Powell and the Grant and at each received an enthusiastic welcome.  In each place the chief who had charge of our party made a speech and told them scholars what each one of us did on the ship.



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