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Havana Harbor: 1904

Havana Harbor: 1904

Havana, Cuba, circa 1904. "Harbor and Muelle Luz (Light Pier)." Note shipwreck at right. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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The tram is just as interesting

I like the ships in this photo, but I like the tram more. It's one of 110 cars built in 1900/01 by Jackson & Sharp of Wilmington, Delaware for the Havana Electric Railway Company. Havana was one of the relatively few tramway systems in the world that used twin trolley wires and poles.

These cars were solidly built, and remained in service with minimal modifications until the HER tram system was abandoned in 1952.

Steamship Vueltabajo

The S.S. VUELTABAJO was was a steel-hulled twin screw steamship built in 1893 at Glasgow, Scotland. At the time of the photo she was plying the Gulf of Mexico in the lumber trade: carrying mahogany, cedar and other tropical hardwoods from Mexican ports to veneer plants and sawmills in Mobile, Alabama. With a crew size of about 20, she had additional berthing for 20 passengers. In 1904 The Official Railway Guide advertised monthly sailings from Mobile to Campeche, Frontera, Tabasco and Laguna. She sank January 29, 1912 near Vera Cruz, Mexico.

USS Maine

The Maine and her sister Texas were technically not battleships. They were classified as second class battleships but were from an earlier design than what we know as battleships. Texas fought in the Spanish-American war at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, but was woefully undergunned with virtually no armor. Although "REMEMBER THE MAINE" was a patriotic catch phrase used to garner support for the war, it was determined recently after observing the wreck that the explosion was internal, caused by a coal bunker fire adjacent to a powder magazine.

Maine Mast

Following up on jnewp's comment, the foremast of the Maine is at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Royal Navy visit

From the Times newspaper, Mar 13 1903:

'The North America and West Indies Squadron left Kingston, Jamaica, yesterday for Havana.'

Hotel Santander ?

I think the Centro Balear (1885) is now the Hotel Santander on Luz Street in old Havana. The shipwreck is gone and the kiosks are gone.

It WAS Small

We forget how big Navy ships got in the 20th century. The Maine was only 324 feet long, about the size of a WWII destroyer escort. And it was only 6600 tons. There are plenty of private yachts that size.

British Naval Presence

There is a surprisingly strong British naval presence in this photo. Four warships are anchored out, at least two of them obviously flying the White Ensign (the 4-funneled cruiser on the left, which might be Cressy or Diadem class, and the barquentine-rigged gunboat in the center). Each of these ships has a consort anchored exactly forward of her that looks like it's probably part of the same squadron, even though these are too far away for me to see flags. (Those of you with better software might try zooming in more).

The change to 4 funnels in British cruisers was very recent indeed in 1904. The Diadems (first with this layout) were commissioned between 1898 and 1903, while the Cressy's were commissioned between 1901 and 1904.

Was there unrest in Cuba in 1904? Did the British send these ships with an eye towards gunboat diplomacy? Or was it merely a courtesy visit?

A paean to the hosts

It's a continual source of enjoyment to visit this site.

I also marvel at the clarity of the photos presented. You guys do a truly fantastic job.


Looks as if one of the masts has already been removed from the USS Maine and hauled off to Arlington.

Remember the Maine!

If I am not mistaken, the shipwreck you see is the remains of the USS Maine, which was destroyed in Havana Harbor in 1898. The wreckage remained there until 1910-11 when it was finally refloated, investigated, and sank again outside of the harbor. The wreckage was re-discovered in 2000. There are archival photos of the wreck still in the harbor and this seems to match up with those photos.

Note shipwreck at right.

The "Maine?"

Is that the Maine?

Seems a little small, but the time would be right.

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