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Lead ship of her class, Virginia was laid down on May 21st, 1902 at Newport News shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. The other four ships of the class were Nebraska, Georgia, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. She was the 5th ship to carry the name Virginia. She was launched in April 5th,1904 at Newport New, Virginia and commissioned into the fleet on May 7,1906.
The above stemmed cup is made of wood and hand-painted for the launching of the USS Virginia on April 5th, 1904. The cup is about 6-inches high with gold on the inside and gold lettering. The card at center celebrates the same occasion with the Virginia sliding into the James River across from the Norfolk Naval Station. The card is canceled almost 1-year later. The card at right shows the traditional christening of the ship at launching. Events for the launching were proceeding with a celebration at the Hotel Chamberlin at Fortress Monroe.
Before commissioning, Captain Seaton Schroeder was given command of the Battleship Virginia and went to commissioning on May 7th at Norfolk Navy Yard. After a period of training independently, all available vessels were collected off Oyster Bay for a review by President Roosevelt. Afterwards Virginia joined Louisiana on the Southern Drill Ground off the Capes of Virginia and proceeded south to Havana. A potential insurgent situation was developing outside the City of Havana. Upon arrival the Louisiana and Virginia prepared the largest landing force they could muster from the American fleet that had gathered. I group of 2,500 seaman and marines were organized from the ships to form a Naval Landing Force. This card at right is from a series that was made to give out for free with delivery of the Lincoln Daily Star, this one showing Captain Schroeder with the USS Virginia.
memories of the virginia
The card above is a glitter card that was part of a series available with each ships name on them. See Link: Glitter Cards. Below is a series issued by Allen Fanjoy showing the USS Virginia. These cards were very popular and sold in California.
The hanky above is a fine example of the photo lithography that was being done in this era. This hanky is also finely embroidered on the borders and all sides with the image of the Virginia in the center. This was most likely a gift item available at the Jamestown Exposition in 1907 which took place in Virginia where the battleship was widely honored.
After her shakedown cruise in the Chesapeake, Virginia went to Newport and then to Long Island before sea trials off Rockland, Maine. She was next sent to Havana, President Palma requested the United States to intervene to protect his government. She arrive September 21st and remained until October 13th, 1906. The above photograph of the crew of the USS Virginia was taken in Havana during this period.
The Virginia Class battleships were designed with two-story gun turrets, an updated version of what the Kearsarge Class had, only these were rectangular and were 8-inch over 12-inch guns. In the photograph at right, ship's company poses around the forward turrets in 1906 while the ship was in Havana.
The photographs above are from the engine room of the Virginia showing the main control throttle valves to the engine. These three photographs are from a collection found in my collection at this link: Frank Lesher Collection
Excerpt from "A Half Century of Naval Service" Seaton Schroeder "By the middle of April we were all back in Hampton Roads. The good people of Virginia had set their hearts upon having an International Exposition to celebrate the three-hundredth anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the United States on the James River some thirty-two miles above its mouth. Their determination had its fruition in the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition on grounds fronting the Hampton Roads. April 26 was the anniversary of the arrival of the English Colonists in Chesapeake Bay, and the formal opening of the Exposition took place on that day. President Roosevelt arrived in the morning in the Mayflower and reviewed the entire international fleet, the ships being all full dressed, the yards or rails manned, and saluting with twenty-one guns. There were several days on which there was a parade, one being Georgia Day and another Virginia Day."
Departing Hampton Roads, Virginia was in First Squadron, Second Division under the Command of Captain Seaton Schroeder. His elevation to Rear Admiral in San Francisco moved the ship to Second Squadron, Third Division under the Command of Captain Sharp. This was fortunate for the crew because Second Squadron visited China and the Virginia visited ports in Syria and Turkey before meeting the other ships in Gibraltar At left is a photograph of the crew on the forecastle while in Auckland, New Zealand. Below that is a photograph of the signalman of the Virginia, part of the Frank Lesher Collection. At right a mug, probably available in San Francisco, with an image of the Virginia. At right and below a card from Frank Lesher while the ship was in Havana, Cuba in October of 1906. Below an early photo postcard of the Virginia taken by Enrique Muller in 1906.
odd fellows of the uss virginia
At left is a small booklet listing all of the crewmembers of the USS Virginia that were member of the fraternal order of the Odd Fellows. The booklet is dated May 1, 1908 which was prior to the ship arriving in San Francisco.
The Odd Fellows is an international fraternity started in London around 1730 promoting philanthropy and the ethic of reciprocity and charity. The name comes from the idea that this group encompassed all of the trades that did not belong to other fraternal groups. They were not masons, or carpenters, or might not have a trade at all, the were "odd fellows."
Upon returning from the cruise, Virginia went into drydock at Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs and upgrades. She received the new cage mast. Following that she spend 15-months doing normal peacetime training and exercises including maneuvers off the Virginia Capes and Newport, and a brief trip to visit Brest, France and Gravesend, England. She returned for another yard period in Boston Naval Yard. During the next three years, up to the Mexican Revolution, she spend in peacetime training. In February and March of 1913 she operated out of Tampico and Veracruz in support of the Mexican government. Completing these assignments she went back to routine training and exercises on the Atlantic Coast until April 1917 when war broke out. Her initial assignment was gunnery training ship, then was tasked with escorting convoys to a halfway point across the Atlantic. Her first convoy with troopships convey 12,176 soldiers. At the end of the war she participated in 5 trips bring over 6,037 soldiers home on the Virginia. The above crew photograph was taken probably before the Virginia left Norfolk to transfer troops in December 1917. As was the fate of other battleships of her age, she was decommission and used as a target ship in accordance with the terms of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty.