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The USS Illinois (BB-7) was a Illinois-Class battleship, the other two ships of the class Alabama and Wisconsin. It was built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company located in Virginia. The keel was laid down in February of 1897, she was launched in October of 1898, and commissioned in September 1901 with Captain G. A. Converse in command. After her initial shakedown, she sailed on November 20, 1901 for Algiers, Louisiana where she was used to test a new floating dry dock. In January 1902 she returned to Newport News to serve as flagship for Rear Admiral Evans for the reception of Prince Henry of Prussia. In April 1902she was the flagship for Rear Admiral Crowninshield and departed from New York and arriving in Naples, Italy May 18, 1902 taking command of the European Squadron. During this tour she ran aground in Norway, requiring repairs in England, but resumed duties in the Mediterranean and the South Atlantic for fleet maneuvers.
Illinois was detached from the European Squadron on January 10, 1903 and was assigned to the North Atlantic Fleet. During the next four years she remained here in training and was involved in two accidents, one a collision with the Missouri, the other with her sister ship Alabama. In the same year Illinois was the first ship to win the Battenberg Cup.
The postcard at right shows the USS Illinois testing the new drydock in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Battenberg Cup was started in 1905 when Prince Louis of Battenberg, commanding the five ships of the Royal Navy's 2nd Cruiser Squadron, visited the United States visiting port along the east coast. Upon return to England he sent a challenge cup to Rear Admiral Robley Evans to be used as a trophy to be used as a competition trophy between the enlisted men rowing teams of the two navies. Only once in the 37-years of competition did America lose, in 1907 at the Jamestown Celebration.
At right is a postcard published by the Lincoln Daily Star showing Captain John Bowyer and the USS Illinois. Captain Bowyer took command of the Illinois in 1907, part of Second Squadron, Fourth Division of the Atlantic Fleet for the entire cruise.
After the cruise she was decommissioned in Boston and underwent major modernization receiving the new cage mast and updated equipment. This took 3 years. In November 1912 she participated in fleet maneuvers with the Atlantic fleet, then made a cruise to Europe with midshipmen from the Naval Academy in mid 1913 and 1914. She was decommissioned in 1919 then transferred to the New York Militia for training purposes. After the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, which stripped her warfighting capabilities, she was converted into a floating armory and assigned to the New York Naval Reserve. Her long life continued, on January 8, 1941 she was reclassified to IX-15 and renamed Prairie State serving as a Midshipmen's training school for the Naval Reserve in New York. At the end of the War she was kept as a barracks for the Naval Reserve unit, and finally on December 31, 1955 she was strickened from register, towed to Baltimore, and sold for scrap to Bethlehem Steel Company in May 1956.