Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Postcards of the GREAT WHITE FLEET
President Theodore Roosevelt, who famously said "Talk softly and carry a big stick," sent a fleet of sixteen U.S. battleships around the world on a "goodwill mission" from December of 1907 to February of 1909, showing off an impressive U.S. naval strength. The ships were all painted white - the peacetime color - and the group of ships later became known as the Great White Fleet. The fleet visits generated festivities and postcards, some of which are shown here. Many of the postcards are from the Japan visit. Japan had an impressive sea power of its own. According to one on-line source, "Roosevelt saw the deployment of the fleet as one that would take the American public's mind off an economic depression that had begun in 1907, encourage patriotism and give the impression that he would teach Japan "a lesson in polite behavior," as historian Robert A. Hart phrased it."
At the opening of this post we see a WELCOME postcard from Japan with a silver background, pink roses and an anchor decoration 'framing' a battleship image in the center. The decorations are embossed. This postcard has a notation in small lettering at the bottom edge which reads, Issued by the Department of Communications in Commemoration of the Visit of the American Fleet Oct. 1908.
Below, a postcard shows a lively image of sailors on a busy street, with a rickshaw, pretty women in traditional Japanese dress and both American and Japanese flags. This is a flat card published in Japan.
Here is a richly embossed poster-style postcard with both silver and gold added. Made in Japan, it has the same notation on the bottom edge as our first postcard.
Two postcards below show pretty ladies and the Great White Fleet visit theme on flat and delicately colored images. These postcards are also made in Japan. The one of the lady with the binoculars demonstrates the classic Japanese design style of combining several images to create an attractive (and slightly surreal) montage.
The battleship Louisiana became the flagship of the second squadron, shown on this multiview postcard at the right below with a close-up of the ship's tailor. Admiral Evans, whose poor health caused him to relinquish command of the fleet to Charles S. Sperry, appears on a multiview with the Cruiser Washington. Known as "Fighting Bob Evans" he managed to enter the Naval Academy at age 13, and this card shows him as a young man, before he was associated with the Great White Fleet. If you'd like to learn more about Admiral Evans, there is a wealth of information on the internet.
Here is a fine poster-style postcard from the fleet's visit to Australia. It is embossed, with gold added and the Australian and U.S. flags.
The last postcard in this post celebrates the Return of the American Battleship Fleet from its "Peace Voyage" Around the World. At the top, it notes that the "Number of miles covered in voyage 42,227"...Uncle Sam shakes a sailor's hand on the left, portraits of Admiral Evans, President Roosevelt and Admiral Sperry are at the bottom, and a list of all the ports visited is at the right. This is a flat postcard, with a list of all the ships on the back.
Price Estimates: Postcards from the voyage of the Great White Fleet are varied in type - there are real photo postcards, views of activities onshore and on the ships, and poster-style postcards. Prices range from the low of about $10 for the activity images, through to $20 - $50 for the poster-style postcards. Real photo images are scarce and can go higher. These prices are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.