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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Battleship: 1905

Battleship: 1905

October 22, 1900. "Russian warship Retvizan, day before launching, Cramp's shipyards, Philadelphia." This battleship had its ups and downs -- built for the Imperial Russian Navy, torpedoed during the Russo-Japanese War, refloated, then sunk, then raised, then commissioned in the Japanese Navy, then sunk again. Whew. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Cramp's style (sorry)

From Philaplace (with 27 very nice images from late 1800s-1943)):

The Cramp shipyard, founded in 1830 by William Cramp, actively participated in the modernization of the shipbuilding industry, from a craft mode of production focused around wooden sailing vessels to an industry centered around steam engines and iron and steel construction. At its height during World War II, it employed roughly 18,000.

Rather Inefficient

With all the time that boat spent underwater, they should have just built it as a submarine.

Day before launching?

How on earth would this ship be ready to launch the next day? There looks to be a whole lot of work remaining. There isn't even a superstructure yet, nor has the hull been finished being armored.

They have a long day ahead of them!

[A lot of that gets done after launching. - Dave]


The wood backing also acted the same way as a "splinter deck" absorbing the razor sharp steel splinters that would be propelled outward from the point of impact literally shredding anyone or thing in its path.


Those pesky 'Roman Numerals' again. Still can't understand why we stopped using them all the time; they're so clear and easy to understand.

Teak Backing

This photo gives an extremely rare view of the wood backing through which heavy armor plate was attached on most armored ships before World War II. (The latest armored ships used concrete as the backing material).

It was established in the Civil War period that a wooden backing helped to distribute the shock of a hit on the armor, and teak was selected by most navies as the best material. As armor technology evolved, the surface was case hardened by a number of different processes depending on what facility did the work. This surface was so hard and brittle it could accept no fasteners, and therefore, holes had to be cut part-way into the armor from the back and threaded rods inserted into them. The armor plates were hoisted into place with a crane, very carefully sliding the rods into corresponding holes in the backing and the ship's structural plating behind them.

You can see the wooden planks -- that's the backing -- in way of the armor belt at the loaded waterline that hasn't yet been applied, and the holes already made to accept the rods. Once the armor was in place, washers and nuts had to be screwed onto the ends of the rods that would be showing inside the hull plating to hold the armor in place.

Wikipedia says the armor belt was 9 inches thick and was US-made, but according to Krupp's process.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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