Artist Unkown Rear Admiral Dewey’s Flagship Olympia 1898. Gorgeous Kurz and Allison print illustrates the pivotal moment of April 1898 when Rear Admiral George Dewey, Commander of the U.S. Asiatic fleet ordered Captain Charles Ridley of the protected cruiser Olympia to “fire when ready.” The Spanish navy, still mostly wooden, was overwhelmed by American firepower. Four centuries of Spanish seapower was broken in hours. The Spanish lost seven warships and suffered over 400 casualties. No Americans were killed in the battle.
The mighty warship is pictured fully underway, 21.7 knots in Olympia’s case, a ship with “a bone in her teeth.” She is pictured elegantly and perfectly cleaving the waves, slightly off center in order to delineate the bow and superstructure and the length of the hull. Steel turrets are shown projecting out just below the starboard rail. This position allow each to fire in a nearly 180 degree arc. The turrets housed some of the ship’s new rapid firing, breach loading, rifled artillery pieces that had just been introduced. The term “protected” cruiser applies to class of cruisers Olympia was a part of. It meant that only parts of the ship were armor protected. These included the steam engine and its enormous boilers and the deck, armored to protect it from plunging fire. Its hull wasn’t heavily armored, had it been it would have rated as an armored cruiser. As opposed to the dreadnoughts of the British navy, built to engage European powers, e.g. Germany, America’s protected cruisers were intended to defend merchantmen from pirates or native uprisings along remote coasts.
A large red, white and blue emblem in the shape of a shield is shown affixed to the top of the bow. A lookout is seen gripping the base of a jack staff from which Rear Admiral Dewey flew his blue split tailed pennant with a single large star. Admiral Dewey himself stands on the bridge, holding the white golf hat he is said to have worn into battle. When warned that torpedoes may be launched Dewey famously cried “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” It was Dewey’s chance for fame and he wasn’t going to miss it. The print includes vignettes of sailors going about their duties. Their uniforms with bell bottom trousers, flat topped hats and blue scarfs around the neck show that not much had changed in the sartorial department since the Civil War thrity three years earlier.
This very early American naval print is amazingly detail, rare and historic. 27×20 mint.