Friday, November 29, 2013

As California's Latest Terror of the Seas Slid from the Ways -- November 29, 2013

From the 27-November-1898 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. Click on the image for a larger view. 

The battleship Wisconsin was built by San Francisco's Union Iron Works.  Wisconsin served through World War One and was sold for scrap in 1922. 

Receiving ship Independence had been launched as a ship of the line in 1814 and was cut down to a frigate in 1836.  She served with the Pacific Squadron during the Mexican War and was receiving ship at Mare Island from 1857 to 1912.  The Navy struck her off in 1913, and she was burned for her metal in 1915. 


Launched by Miss Gage.
She Cuts the Gordian Knot.

AT twenty-one minutes past 9 o'clock yesterday morning slip No. 4 of the Union Iron Works gave birth to the new and latest terror of the American navy.  Amid the thunder of barking guns and the piercing shrieks of thousands of steam whistles, amid the shouts of a loyal populace and with a wealth of the national colors fluttering on the crisp morning breeze, the Wisconsin, the fairest of Uncle Sam's proud daughters, made her debut to the nations of the world — and was at home to her sister ships on the blue waters of San Francisco Bay.

A beautiful woman stood sponsor for the mountain frame of warlike iron and steel. A little golden-haired, rosy cheeked, laughing child placed her chubby fingers on a small, white button. Then in answer to the electric current the Wisconsin accepted her mission of life, her duty of war or peace, and started down the incline like some frightened deer. Slowly at first, until her fair sponsor cast against her steel breast the christening wine, saying: "I name thee Wisconsin." Realizing her freedom was her own, and as if in acknowledgment of the proud feeliIng, the battleship leaped forward to the water, the joyous waves came surging up to meet and welcome her, and out into the glorious wealth of sun shine, out onto the breast of the fathomless deep the armored terror plunged — the coast line battleship Wisconsin had been successfully launched from the yards of the Union Iron Works.

At the first signs of approaching day the Potrero began to awaken. Yesterday was a great day in the Potrero, for the men who gave to our navy the history-making Oregon were to send forth from the same slip on which was built that historic battleship another monster creation of their brawn and muscle. For nineteen months and fifteen days the smoke-begrimed, work-hardened toilers of the Union Iron Works had been patiently building the new battleship. Slowly they had seen the latest object of their pride and adoration grow from a mass of iron ribs and frames into definite shape and
form. From its conception on February 11, 1897, the eyes of the Potrero had rested fondly, lovingly on the Wisconsin. The hopes and prayers of the Potrero had gone daily into the very body of the ship and had been built into her from keel to top deck. Yesterday was the day when the Wisconsin was to say good-by to those who had given her life and existence, and while a feeling of sadness oppressed the heart of the Potrero at the thought of the parting, yet the Potrero to a single man, and for that matter to its oldest gaffer and youngest child, was determined that the Wisconsin's natal day should be a success.

At 6 o'clock the busy sounds of preparation disturbed the morning stillness.  An army of men began the work of sawing and cutting away the blocks from underneath the ship, while others hurried around her decks to see that all was right and in order.

President Irving M. Scott, proud, happy and smiling, was himself early on the scene. He hurried here and there. He seemed to be everywhere at once, giving orders and directions. His personal supervision was lent to the smallest detail. Before the gates were opened Captain Spillane and Lieutenants Anderson and Hanna arrived with a small army of police. From beginning to end they kept perfect order and handled the 7000 people that were admitted within the shipyards in a most
thorough and efficient manner. Besides the thousands that came by invitation there was a host of curious humanity along the water's edge, while the roof of every house in the Potrero was covered with people. Every point of. vantage in the yards was quickly seized upon by the crowd. The small
boy climbed everything in sight and balanced himself on its topmost pinnacle at the risk of life and limb. The frame work of the slip was black with venturesome men and boys. The police kept the crowd from the stand on which war to take place the ceremonies. This was gayly bedecked with patriotic bunting. Shortly before the arrival of the guests of honor the Marine band from the receiving ship Independence arrived and also a squad of sailors and marines from the Wheeling. These were drawn up by their officers in two lines on either side of the Wisconsin's prow to keep back the crowd.

At 8:45 o'clock the Union Iron Works tug Millen Griffith arrived with the Wisconsin contingent and specially invited guests on board. They were escorted to the stand by Mr. Scott.  First came Miss Elizabeth Stephenson, with Senator J. L. Mitchell. The fair sponsor wore a dream of a gown — a Parisian creation made especially for the occasion. The skirt was of cadet blue broadcloth. The shirt waist was pink silk trimmed with duchesse lace, while the jacket was of the same material as the skirt, trimmed with blue velvet and lace applique, with white satin facing. The exquisite impression of the gown was heightened. In its effect by the high sable collar and the black velvet hat, from which waved graceful white and black plumes. Next came Governor-elect Gage and Mrs. Gage, with their little daughter Lucille. She was a perfect wonder of childish beauty In a fluffy little dress of some soft blue material, while from under her big white hat her wealth of golden curls fell gracefully over her shoulders.

Following came Lieutenant Governor Emil Bench of Wisconsin, with the following distinguished members of the party from his State, among whom was Governor Scofferd's staff:

Isaac Stephenson, Miss Hattie Stephenson, Colonel I. Watson Stephenson, Master Grant Stephenson, Mrs. Joshua Hodgins, Mrs. H. J. Brown, S. M. Stephenson and wife. Miss Harriet Stephenson, Miss Clara Stephenson, Miss Belle Merryman. Mrs. H. T. Emerson, Mrs. J. K. Wright, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Stephenson Jr., Miss Nellie Fleisheim. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Carney, Mr. and Mrs. W. O. Goodrich, Mr. and Mrs. A. Goble, Mr. and Mrs.J. E. Patton, Captain and Mrs. Fred Pabst, Mr. and Mrs. William Lindsey, Mrs. J. L. Mitchell. Mr. and Mrs. Julius Bleyer, Mr. and Mrs. A. C. Clas, Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Roberts Mr. and Mrs. D. H. Stebbins, Mr. and Mrs. John Hannan, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Koch, Mr. and Mrs. Seymour Hollister, George Hanley, Mrs. Ellen C. Sexton, Mrs. Rose Finn, Mrs. J. W. P. Lombard, E. P. Hackett, George J. Suarz, Colonel W. J. Boyle, W. A. Ruble. H. A. Campbell. Colonel Simon J. Murphy. H. J. Fish, Senator Sawyer, Captain S. Mann, Miss Erna Olson, C. A. Goodyear, C. B. Raymond, Colonel William J. Fair. Miss Reynolds, Misss Cora Hatch. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Swart. T. J. Neacy, Miss Fittemore. Miss S. C. Blandy and Frank Carney.

The army was represented by Major General Merriam and his aid. Lieutenant Bennett, while Commodore Watson and the officers of the Franklin, Adams and Wheeling were present on the part of the American navy. The officers of the Italian cruiser Etna were also among the guests, as were Captains Sakmo, Sakurai and Wodagaki of the Japanese navy. Mayor Phelan was present on behalf of the city. There were also the Union Iron Works officials and many swell girls on the stand. 

Promptly at 9:05 the brief ceremonies began. This consisted of the presentation to the Wisconsin of  her colors, which were received by Commodore Watson.

About the 26th of October Mrs. M. H. Mayberry, teacher of sewing connected with the manual training department of the Irving M. Scott School, suggested that the children under her charge make a set of colors for the battleship Wisconsin. Her patriotic sentiments were enthusiastically seconded by the principal. Miss M. M. Murphy, and her entire corps of assistants.

This work of love and patriotism was begun on the 26th of October of the present year, 1898.

The flag and Union Jack are made in accordance with the specifications and rules of the Navy Department of the United States Government. The flag is 27 feet long by 14 feet wide. The Union
Jack is 10 feet 10 inches by 7 feet 9 inches. One hundred and seventy-three yards of bunting were used in the construction of these colors.

The children engaged in the work of making the colors were from eleven regular sewing classes, ln all about 300 pupils.

The homes of these children are in the vicinity of the Union Iron Works, where they have seen the mighty form of the Wisconsin rising, as it were, out of the sea. The parents of many of them wielded the hammers that sang out the strokes that told of the mighty work their strong and sinewy arms have done for the nation.

The furled flag was suspended from the bowsprit. Miss Margaret Duff, Miss Jeanette Draper and Master Frank Dixon, all pupils of the Irving Scott School, held the cords that were to release the colors. These pupils had won this honor by their meritorious work- In presenting the colors Miss Duff addressed Commodore Watson.  She said:

"Hon. Commodore Watson, Representatives of the Army and Navy, Hon. Irving M. Scott and friends:

"The high honor of presenting the colors to the great battleship Wisconsin has been accorded to me by the teachers and pupils of the Irving Scott School.

"The high honor conferred is enhanced by the fact that this is the only occasion when pupils of our public schools have made a flag with their own little hands, gladdened by the thought that the United States Government would accept their work.

"Through the kindness of Hon. Irving M. Scott, who has now a world wide reputation as a promoter and builder of great battleships, we are permitted to offer this token of our love and patriotism.

"Our parents have wielded the hammers, driven the rivets and otherwise builded this noble ship from keel to turret. Now she is ready to displace the waters of our glorious bay: to greet the sun as she rides triumphantly on her mission of humanity; to demonstrate to all nations of the earth that she, as well as her noble sisters, the Oregon, the Olympia, the Charleston, Monterey and others, great ships built here at the Union Iron Works, can defend our nation's honor and use her power to battle in the cause of humanity.

"Go forth, magnificent "Wisconsin; dip your noble bow to-day in the waters of San Francisco Bay; sail fearlessly over the seas; show your magnificent lines in the ports of all the great nations of the world. Let your message be one of peace, and Instead of a figurehead of the God of Battle, let there be emblazoned in words of living light, 'We come in the name of the living God, for the nation's honor; we come in the cause of humanity.'

"And now, Hon. Commodore Watson, we beg that you accept these colors which we have carefully made according to the specifications laid down by the Navy Department for the construction of such flags. Three hundred children have put in every stitch with the utmost care, so I am sure you will find upon examination that our labor has not been in vain.

"Under the guiding hand of our sewing teacher, Mrs. M. H. Mayberry of the manual training department of our school, we have worked with patience, with most patriotic devotion, to crown the work of many of our parents, who have bent their energies to complete this noble ship."

"All is finished.
And at length has come the bridal day of
beauty and of strength.
To-day the vessel shall be launched.
With fleecy clouds the sky is blanched.
And o'er the bay
Slowly in all his splendor's light
The great sun rises to behold the sight.
The ocean old, centuries old.
Strong as youth, and as uncontrolled
Paces restless to and fro
Up and down the sands of gold.
His beating heart is not at rest.
And far and wide with ceaseless flow
His beard of snow
Heaves with the heaving of his breast.
He waits Impatient for his bride.
There she stands, with her foot upon the sands,
Decked with flags and streamers gay.
In honor of her marriage day.
Her snow white signals fluttering, blending
Round her like a veil descending
Ready to be the bride of the gray old sea."

At the conclusion of the graceful speech Commodore Watson in a few patriotic words accepted the Wisconsin on behalf of her captain. The three children pulled the cords and Old Glory floated on the breeze amid the cheers from the multitude. Then Mayor Phelan read Clara Iza Price's eloquent ode to the battleship published in yesterday's issue and the supreme moment had come.

The bottle of wine was lowered from the vessel's prow by streamers of the national colors. Miss Stephenson grasped it firmly and smiled. Then little Lucille Gage touched the button. Slowly at first, so slow in fact that it scarcely seemed to move at all, the huge ship, snail-like, went forward. "She's off:" was the cry from the waiting thousands.
A soft, firm, sweet voice said, "I christen thee Wisconsin."
There was a crash of glass and the white effervescing wine dampened the iron prow of the mighty vessel and ran in sparkling rivulets down her sides.  Forward, like some animal that feels the lash, the Wisconsin leapt, and then with a rush and a roar the largest battleship ever constructed on this coast sped down the incline into the waters of the bay and into history.

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