The Jamestown Exposition – Showcase for the Fleet

roosevelt's visits the exposition

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."  Right, Keystone Stereoview of Roosevelt arriving on April 26, 1907.  Below, Roosevelt speaking at Jamestown on Georgia Day.


President Roosevelt on advertising card for the opening day celebrations.


With three factions involved - technological advancements, commercialism, and military - all three were fighting amongst themselves during the planning of the Jamestown Exposition.  There were those who disagreed with Roosevelt's insistence upon adding the military to the exposition.  The military itself felt they shouldn't be exploited to promote commercialism.  Eventually, the protests ere set aside, and the military exhibition continued as planned.

Roosevelt visited the exposition twice, a second time on June 10th, for the dedication of the Georgia House.  Unfortunately, the day was marred by an accident when six midshipmen and five enlisted sailors from the battleship Minnesota drowned when their launch overturned in heavy winds.

After the exposition closed, many of the buildings were torn down, and, in 1917, when the Navy purchased the property, the state buildings were purchased from their owners and moved to there present locations on Admiral's Row in 1934.  The Palace of History also survives to this day as the base gymnasium.




This is a large poster photograph of the Atlantic Fleet at the Jamestown Exposition.  The photographer is C.W. Colasanti.



In addition to the displays of American history, the Dominican Republic sponsored a building, and the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Haiti, Mexico, and Venezuela were represented by either an exhibition or a warship.  The card above, "Pride of the Navies" shows warships from other nations joining an American battleship.  Besides the 33 American ships, there were two German armored cruisers, two Austro-Hungarian cruisers, three Brazilian ships, and one cruiser from Argentina.  The reverse showing the two commemorative cancels and the stamp with an image of Captain James Cook issued for the Jamestown Ter-Centennial.



Roosevelt reviewed each ship from his yacht, the Mayflower.  As each ship passed they fired a customary 21 gun salute to the President.  These ships were joined by tow Italian warships, a Japanese squadron, and ships from Norway and Sweden.  The double-wide card above is made to commemorate the event and is posted to Provincetown, Massachusetts on July 6, 1907.


u.s.r.s. richmond

Many times when reporting to a new ship, the first a sailor would go is a "receiving ship" that would house them until their ship returned.  In Hampton Roads, this was the USRS Richmond.  Richmond was launched in 1860 by Norfolk Naval Shipyard and fought throughout the Civil War.  She was involved in the blockade of the Mississippi, the Capture of New Orleans, fought at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and the battles at Mobile Bay.  33 sailors and marines earned the Medal of Honor while serving on the Richmond during the Civil War, more than any other ship.




My Dear Sister, I am now on the United States Man-of-War Connecticut which, with twenty-two Battle Ships, Cruisers, and Transports, are waiting in Hampton Roads for President Roosevelt to review, prior to our departure for the Pacific Coast, which will be December 16th. …"

This was an actual bill attached to a postcard and sent.  They were real currency, as the exchange rate had dropped considerably.



the fleet at jamestown

Ships from fleets around the world came to Jamestown to participate in a show of good will.  The photographs in this group are part of the Brown & Shaffer collection on this site.  In the first photograph the Austro-Hungarian Navy Armored Cruiser SMS Sankt Georg.  She had been launched in 1903 and this visit to the Exposition was one of here early trips.

The American ships Indiana, Maine, and Texas were part of the show.  After the Spanish-American War, the Indiana and Texas were still ships that people remembered and wanted to visit.  The Maine was a new battleship replacing the earlier Main that blew up in  Havana Harbor.

At left is a great photograph of the fleet steamers unloading sailors at the exposition pier.  In the background can be seen the various exposition building.  Looking at the cards below it appears that this photograph would have been taken on the outside of the right (western) pier looking inward toward land.



Each of the above cards shows "birds-eye" views of the Jamestown pier with the world navies around it.  Liberty boats were able to enter the inner area between the piers to put sailors ashore and pick up guests to visit the ships.  These three cards were each cancelled with the commemorative cancel during late 1907.



Captain James Cook and Elizabeth Warren's distant relative enjoy a close moment.  At right a native chief daydreams of destroying all of the ships and monuments that now clutter his oceans and landscape.


There were card issued to celebrate our Native American heritage and the help the settlers received at Jamestown to make it through the early years of the settlement.





Above is a 6-panel postcard with the battleship fleet at the Jamestown Exposition.  The black boats are the torpedo squadron that accompanied the fleet on the first leg of their journey.   In the foreground can be see all of the launches from the ships ferrying sailors ashore.





name that ship

This is a card of interest.  Dated January 23, 1907, it was most likely around for the Jamestown Exposition and the departure of the fleet.  The photo was obviously taken before January 23rd.  It is not the Mayflower, Yakton, Glacier, Culgoa, or Panther.  It is flying the U.S. Navy Jack and Flag from the bow and the stern, but has a unknown flag from the forward mast.  Certainly a ship constructed in the 1890s.  Anyone know which ship this is?



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