SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
The Shorpy Archive
9000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
Join and Share

Support Shorpy

Shorpy is funded by you. Help by purchasing a print or contributing. Learn more.

Social Shorpy


Join our mailing list (enter email):

Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

About the Photos

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.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Careful, Kitten: 1916

Careful, Kitten: 1916

1916. "Indian Head, Maryland. Navy proving ground. Residence of George Swann, damaged by 16-inch shell that hit another in sandbank, and was deflected over country at 3/4 angle. The shell, where it stopped in dooryard." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative, Library of Congress. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5
To stay online without a paywall or a lot of pop-up ads, Shorpy needs your help. (Our server rental alone is $3,000 a year.) You can contribute by becoming a Patron, or by purchasing a print from the Shorpy Archive. Or both! Read more about our 2019 pledge drive here. Our last word on the subject is: Thanks!

Indian Head

As a native of Indian Head, the Naval Ordnance Station is still an integral part of life in Southern Maryland, about 25 miles from Washington, DC and sitting just across the river from Quantico. Many of our families' livelihoods depended upon the important defense work being done at the "Naval Propellant Plant," as it was called when I was growing up. Because of its location on the Potomac, a lot of testing was done in the water. Several times when I was a kid, some horrible accident would occur when explosive dust, accumulated over time or through carelessness, exploded. I remember our house shaking as if an earthquake had hit and then hearing the sirens on the base, knowing that there had been an explosion and praying my father had not been in it. He was a sheet and plate metal worker and retired from the base after 30 years of service and became a vocational education teacher in the Charles County school system. He lived to be 81 and he and my mother were two of the oldest residents when the town of Indian Head celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1990.

What a different world it was in 1916.

Love Government's response: Give us a bigger proving ground or just get used to stray naval shells flying every which way.

Green Acres

I half expected to see Lisa and Oliver Douglas standing on the porch as Mr. Haney drives up to sell them a new one.

These Things Happen...

As we used to say in artillery:

"Shot OVER."

"Shot OUT!"


This kind of testing was moved to Dahlgren, VA in the 20s

The gov'ment

I wonder if the Navy paid for repairs.

Worthy of another look.

This incident has not just occurred. Temporary posts (sapling trunks, by the look of it!) have been erected to hold up the porch roof. Therefore I conclude that the round is a dummy, thus the lack of urgency in removing it and the fact that child and kitten are allowed in such close proximity.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

16 inch?

I certainly am not a naval historian by any means but the caption having 16 inch shell and 1916 made me do a quick internet search on US naval gun sizes and when these took place.

The first US battleship to mount 16 inch guns was the Colorado class BB, the Maryland, laid down in 1917 and commissioned in 1921. Previous classes (and there were many in the 1905-1917 timeframe) went from 12 inch to 14 inch.

Of course, 12, 14 or most likely incorrectly stated as 16 inch will not help the porch or Mr. Swann's condition!

[The shell was not fired from a battleship, and 16 inches seems to be correct. See below. Before a new gun is mounted on a ship, it has to be tested, which is what the Indian Head Proving Ground was for. - Dave]

Questions, questions...

How long was the shell sitting there? Was it a dummy round used for testing? How long did it take them to make some makeshift repairs, like moving the porch railing over, and removing much of the debris? What's up with the "scaffolding" on the side of the house? Where did the shell land, and which way did it come from? Is that where it ended up after it landed, or did someone move it there? Is that a piece of window on the porch roof? Is the kid watching ants?

Gee, Mr. Swann, Sorry About That

Presumably it had been determined by the time the photo was taken that the shell was harmless...still, if I'm Geo. Swann, I'm getting my daughter and kitten off the porch ASAP, and calling the Navy to make sure they come and get the thing. I wonder what was in those buckets on the table?

SHORPY OLD 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.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2019 Shorpy Inc.