The Jamestown Exposition – Showcase for the Fleet

Commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the exposition was held from April 26th to December 1st, 1907.  Opening day was exactly 300 years after Admiral Christopher Newport and his colonists made their landing at the southern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  The 340-acre site included a 122 by 60 foot model of the Panama Canal, a wild animal show, a wild west show, and a recreation of the recent San Francisco Earthquake.  One of the most popular attractions was the re-creation of the battle between the USS Monitor and the USS Virginia which had taken place within sight of the exposition 40 years earlier.


 

President Roosevelt on advertising card for the opening day celebrations.

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT WILL PUSH THE BUTTON!

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.


 

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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.


 

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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.


 

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"A REAL CONFEDERATE BILL, WHICH WAS USED DURING THE CIVIL WAR TO PAY OFF THE SOUTHERN SOLDIERS"

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.

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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.


 

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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.

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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.

 


 

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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.


 


 

 


 

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