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Secretary of War: 1897

Secretary of War: 1897

January 1897. "U.S.S. Brooklyn, First Sergeant, Marine Corps." Our second look at this battleship's typewriters. 8x10 inch glass negative. View full size.


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Modern tumblehome

Tumblehome is being used again on the Zumwalt class of destroyers. Spiraling costs trimmed the number ordered from 32 to 3. The lead ship, the USS Zumwalt is scheduled to be commissioned in 2015.

Squared Away

Squared away? Looking closely at the left boot the toe appears to be scuffed. The right boot lace is hanging out instead of being tucked away, and it is not laced all the way up to the top. His iron should be stowed away not placed under the desk along with whatever is behind the iron. There's a towel out in the left hand corner of the photo, and a brush stored on top of the desk. His keys are stored in the lock. Is he sitting on a folded blanket or coat? He fails even a routine cursory inspection.

He looks young to be a first sergeant.

Guess promotion policies were different in the Old Corps.

The first sergeant's typewriter

is a Smith Premier No. 1. This model was introduced in 1889 and sold through the 1890s. It had separate keys for caps and lower case.

NCO chevron FAQs

Since 1820 USMC uniform regulations stated chevrons "shall be worn on the uniform coat, above the elbow, points up, of yellow silk lace, one-half inch wide." As for the army's 1820 regulations, chevrons were to point down, until that changed to pointing up in 1903.

Textured coating

Why the heavy textured coating over beams, walls, bulkheads...etc?
What would they add to the paint?

Happy Birthday US Marine Corps!

What a coincidence that you posted this just in time for the 239th birthday of the Marine Corps, which was born at Tun Tavern on 10 NOV 1775. 158 years later, it also became the birth date of my father, who would serve 35 years on active duty as a US Marine. Dad had no idea that they shared a birthday until he graduated from boot camp, on his 17th birthday, and they were each given a carton of cigarettes as a birthday present.


This is a good example of the tumblehome that was in style for naval vessels in the late 1800s. The hull was widest at the waterline, and tapered in dramatically to the upper deck. The idea was to reduce topside weight.

Here is a shot of this ship, the armored cruiser USS Brooklyn CA-3 or ACR-3. The extreme curvature of the side indicates that the 1st Sgt's office was on the upper deck amidships, near the large midships turret sponson. The ship was only 2 years old at the time, suggesting that the lumpy hull and bulkhead texture is not due to many layers of paint, but to asbestos fireproofing.

His name is John J Manning

The only man listed with that rank aboard the Brooklyn in January of 1897 according to the Marine Corp muster rolls.

Unfortunately its a stupidly common name, and I couldn't find any more information other than his progression in rank from private in 1890 up to 1899 when he apparently moved on in life to other things, as he vanished from the muster rolls at that point.

It's hand-lettering, not type

Oh, it's from that era, all right. Much of the flamboyant lettering seen on printed pieces from the turn of the (last) century was done by hand instead of being set in type. The cap A's, L's, and Y's show this, because they aren't identical.

Right, Mr Mel

My son, who was active US Army '88-'91, looked at this photo and said "That's one squared-away dude!"

Brooklyn 1897

The city and year caught my eye since they are the birth place and year of my maternal grandmother, so I had a look at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (14 pages, 3 cents) on a random day (Saturday, January 16) and found on the front page the story of Charles Rothschild, age 30, father of four, who "had become involved in business troubles and suffered from depression," and committed suicide by "throwing himself from the eighth floor of the Cable building at Broadway and Houston street, New York, through the airshaft, to the basement." His wife had followed him from Brooklyn into Manhattan since she wanted to show him a letter that had arrived offering him "an opportunity of employment." She was "on the fourth floor of the building at the time and saw her husband's body shoot downward through the shaft, and, recognizing the upturned face of her husband, became so wildly hysterical that she had to be removed to the New York hospital in an ambulance."

Semper Fi

The shine on his footgear tells us that this was one shaped-up, no nonsense, tough First Shirt.

Odd typeface

The typeface on the top of the calendar looks like it came from another era ! It looks most out of place.

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