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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.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Free Lancers: 1898

Free Lancers: 1898

1898. "U.S.S. Free Lance -- officers and crew." This patrol vessel, a converted steam yacht, was loaned to the Navy for service in the Spanish-American War. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

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Rakish Lines and Gatling Guns

The Free Lance, later Freelance, was loaned once for the Spanish American War and leased later for duty in WWI. Rakish lines and the Gatling gun installations clearly shown here. The later WWI configuration appears far more 'Navy'. IN both cases, the yacht was returned to its patriotic owner when the wars passed.

The tell-tale tail

Of all the auxiliary ships at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1898, only the two receiving ships—the New Hampshire and her sister ship the Vermont—had sterns built like this one. However, the stern of the Vermont (below) had a different rudder post than did the New Hampshire, and had filigree, while the New Hampshire did not.


The last duty station of the New Hampshire had been at New London, Connecticut as a receiving ship. She was decommissioned there in early June 1892, and the next year transferred to the New York State Naval Militia as a training ship. In June 1898, the United States Auxiliary Naval Force (consisting of the naval militias of the various states) was created, and on the 14th the New Hampshire was transferred back to the navy. From then until the end of the war she again served as a receiving ship and also as the headquarters of the Third District of the Auxiliary Naval Force. The Free Lance also served in the Third District.

After the war the New Hampshire was returned to the New York State Naval Militia to resume duties as a training ship. She was renamed the Granite State in late 1904 to free up the New Hampshire name for a newly authorized battleship. As the Granite State she continued to serve the Naval Militia as a training ship in the years leading to the First World War. In May 1921 she caught fire and sank at her Hudson River pier. A year later she was refloated and sold for salvage. While under tow to the Bay of Fundy to be scrapped—usually done by beaching and burning to recover the metal fittings—she again caught fire (some of the salvage crew were assumed to have been cooking onboard). As she became engulfed in flames off Marblehead, Massachusetts, the towline parted and as a flaming hulk she drifted to just east of Graves Island off Manchester-by-the-Sea, where she sank in 30 feet of water. Said to be an easy dive, parts of her broken hull can still be seen today.

The picture below—taken after she was raised from the bottom of the Hudson—shows the distinct stern.


Hello Handsome!

The fellow seated at the front left. Oh my! From his manly expression of toughness to his dashing pinky ring. He's swoon worthy!

New Hampshire?


How did you determine that the ship in the background was the New Hampshire? There seem to be no markings.


I guess there were no regulations for NCO neckwear. Those 3 Petty Officers, 2nd row center, Left to right, a bow tie, a conventional necktie and no tie.

Rank insignia

What is the rank of the officer seated on the right with the broad dark stripe on his sleeves? Passed Midshipman?

Floating Hat and Gatling Gun

Who is holding the floating hat? I wonder how that gatling gun was mounted on the deck?

[That looks like a bit of a finger at the left edge, so I'd say it's being held out by the sailor with the hint of a playful grin on his face, second from right in the front row. -tterrace]

Time Traveler

I had the same thought when looking over the group of sailors and noticed the clean shaven sailor in the back row. This brings up the question - does time travel or time leaps exist. It's an entertaining thought and possibly this face will appear in future photos. :-)
I also noticed the knuckles on the right hand of the standing sailor to the far left - possibly Rheumatoid Arthritis or years of hard work?

USS New Hampshire

is the vessel moored directly astern. This old-style 'ship of the line' was authorized in 1816 and completed in 1825, but not actually launched until 1864. By then her design was obsolete, so she served as a storage and training vessel before being converted into a "receiving ship", a floating barracks to house naval recruits. In this photo she is moored at the New York Navy Yard, which the Free Lancers were assigned to help protect against marauding Spaniards.

Back from the future??

All the men with their mustaches and slick hair parted down the centre are appropriate for the late nineteenth century. But check out the smiling sailor in the back row (on the right) whose clean shaven face and mussed up hair looks like he dropped in from 2014

The tall guy in the middle all the way back ...

Sure looks like Peyton Manning.

A tough looking bunch

The Chief Quartermaster and the 2nd Class Boatswains Mate in the middle row look particularly intimidating. The CO and XO, too, look like they'd stand for no guff!

Here's Looking at You, Fellas

Too bad the two seated fellows on the ends, in the front row, were born in the 1860s and 1870s instead of the 1960s and 1970s. They never got the chance to be leading men on the silver screen.

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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