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McKinley missed fanfare of battleship christening

From Niles to the White House

Headlines in the New York Times on July 28, 1901, touted the christening of a new battleship named for the Maine battleship that exploded and sank in the Havana, Cuba, harbor, forcing President McKinley’s hand in military involvement in the Spanish American War.

As per the New York Times: “New Battleship Maine Takes To The Water. Successfully Launched at the Cramps’ Shipyards.”

“Philadelphia, July 27 — The battleship Maine, designed to be bigger, stronger, and faster than her namesake, whose shapeless mass still lies in the Harbor of Havana, was launched today from the yards of the William Cramp Ship and Engine Building Company. The warship’s initial dip into the waters of the Delaware River was a success in every way. One of the largest crowds that have ever seen a warship leave the way sat the Cramps’ yard was on hand, and much patriotism was displayed as the ship left her cradle.

“Residents of Kensington, the great industrial section, where the ship yard is located, took a holiday and attended the launch. Thousands of persons from other parts of the city were on hand, and as the yard was thrown open to the public, every vantage point swarmed with spectators. The weather was beautiful.There was just enough breeze from the river to temper the warm rays of the sun.

“Although the number of distinguished guests was not so large as usual, there was a good attendance of naval and civilian officials. The State of Maine was officially represented by Gov. John Hill and his staff. From Washington came Rear Admirals R. B. Bradford, G. W. Melville,and J. G. Walker, Lt. Commander Frank H. Bailey, Capt. R. P. Leary, former governor of Guam, and several bureau chiefs of the Navy Department.

“President McKinley, Secretary of the Navy Long, Admiral Dewey, Capt. Sigsbee, and many others who received invitations, were unable to attend. It was the intention to have some of the survivors of the Maine witness the launch, but none was present.

“The honor of naming the ship was given to Miss Mary Preble Anderson of Portland, Maine, a descendant of the Preble family that has added fame to the naval honors of the country. Next to the ship itself, Miss Anderson was the centre of interest. At 10:25 a.m., Miss Andersons stepped upon the stand that had been erected at the bow of the hull. She was escorted by Henry W. Cramp, and was accompanied by Gov. Hill, his staff, her parents and several other members of her family.

“Before she arrived, the knocking away of the blocks from under the great mass of steel had begun, and all was ready when the tide slackened. Then the shoe piece, the last timber that held the ship, was sawed in twain and the vessel began to move. Before she had receded a foot, Miss Anderson, true to custom, struck the bow of the Maine a blow with a bottle of champagne and formally named her.

“As the vessel slid off the ways a great shout went up and every steam craft in the vicinity began the tooting of whistles. The Maine, after she reached mid-stream, was taken in tow by several tugs and brought to the shore. After the launch, an informal luncheon was served in the mold loft of the shipyard.

“The Maine, which is a sister ship of the Ohio, will be one of the most powerful battleships afloat. Her armament will be of the greatest power. Congress authorized the construction of the Maine on May, 4, 1898, and the contract was signed Oct. 1 of the same year. Thirty months were given for the completion of the ship, but delay caused by the controversy of the question of armor plate, however, made it impossible to carry out this condition. The keel was laid on Feb. 15, 1899, the anniversary of the destruction of the first battleship Maine in Havana Harbor. She is about 56 percent completed, and it is expected it will be ready for delivery in about 18 months or two years.”

Ami LeMaster is the director of the McKinley Birthplace Museum and Memorial in Niles.

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