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Motley Crew: 1897

"Hogan's Alley." Below decks aboard the U.S.S. Brooklyn circa 1897. Glass negative by Edward H. Hart, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

"Hogan's Alley." Below decks aboard the U.S.S. Brooklyn circa 1897. Glass negative by Edward H. Hart, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Hazing must have been rough

I would fear being the new guy tossed into the hold with the likes of these old salts. I'd bet they made life miserable until they deemed you a worthy shipmate!

Fire Grenades

Yes, the three round bottles hanging on the right are Harden Star Hand Fire Grenades. They were made of fragile glass usually filled with carbon tetrachloride, a very popular fire extinguishing agent at one time. Carbon tet is a halogen and attacks the chemical chain reaction of fire (tetrahedron) rather than the normal avenues (fire triangle). Later used as Halon in complex fire extinguishing systems and was quite effective, and with sensitive detection equipment would even extinguish an an explosion before dangerous pressures could develop. The grenades were thrown at the base of a fire, breaking the glass and hoping the extinguishing agent put a dent in the fire. They had various colors and the one in my collection is a wonderful cobalt blue. Carbon tetrachloride was also a very popular cleaning agent especially in auto repair shops, my Father growing up using it. Under high temperatures carbon tetrachloride formed phosgene gas, and finally determined to be not so good to use on a fire in enclosed areas. The CFC fraud finally put an end to carbon tetrachloride. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) mixed in water was generally used only as half of the propelling agent combined with sulfuric acid to produce CO2 gas, expelling water under pressure onto a fire with the water doing the work. As opposed to dry chemical extinguishers which used sodium bicarbonate extensively.

Hogan's Alley

Hogan's Alley was an 1890s comic strip. Wacky characters doing wacky things. The "Yellow Kid" was a principal. One of the first comic strips. Very popular in that time.

It is interesting that a submariner talks about a Hogan's Alley aboard his boat. During my naval service in the 40s, 50s, 60s, I can't recall ever hearing the term. Maybe I've forgotten but I don't think so. A web search didn't turn up much either.

Great navy photos! Thank you very much.

Very interesting!

My great uncle served on the USS Baltimore at the battle of Manila Bay. Nice series of shots!

Restoring Hogan's Alley

What a great shot! I am the curator on Requin, the (now-museum) submarine Dex Armstrong speaks of in his musings. We are currently working on a plan for restoring our Hogan's Alley to its former glory, but have to keep it family friendly, so it will never be the same! I have to say, when former sailors come onboard, the place where they become most wistful is Hogan's Alley- on any boat, in any era, was and is more than a home away from home. It's like a kid's bedroom, treehouse, playground, and alley behind the comic book store where they sneak to look at Playboys absconded from the back of Dad's closet.

Young salts

Looking into these faces is amazing. First thought that came to me -- these guys were not plagued by a lot of self-doubt. Ha.

Hygiene Below Decks

A sailor travels to many lands,
anywhere he pleases.
And he always remembers to wash his hands,
so he doesn't catch diseases.

The Varmit Pit

To quote

Remember "The Alley"? On Requin, it was six racks in the after battery - outboard - aft of the well manhole. Home of the most senior, most worthless non rated wild men on the boat. The nest where every harebrain prank, underhanded scheme, diabolical plot and stupid idea germinated, hatched and blossomed forth. Yup, you got it - the Varmit Pit.

The ringleader of this band of unrepentent idiots was known as the Mayor of the Alley. The motto was: "If you ain't heard a good rumor in four hours... Start one." In the annals of Naval history, Hogan's Alley ranks right up there with pirate dens and the foc'sle of the HMS Bounty. A rat hole whose only redeeming feature lay in the fact that the wardroom always knew where the "usual suspects" were camped out and could be rounded up. On Requin, it was known to anyone above Ensign as the "Headache Factory."

New viewpoint on race relations in the military.

Wow, an integrated crew in 1897! I never realized that would have existed. That would be worth researching.

Black Sailors

Apparently the navy in 1896 wasn't as segregated as it would later become. At the beginning of the 20th Century there were Black sailors in most of the enlisted departments of the Navy; the first Black to make CPO was Chief Gunners Mate John Henry Turpin who enlisted in 1896 and was promoted to Chief in 1917. Increasingly policy pushed new enlistments into "servant" roles. In 1919 the Navy instituted a "Whites Only" policy - Blacks who were already in the Navy could continue in their various areas until they retired but Blacks who wanted to enlist in the Navy were refused. This policy lasted until 1932 but only as stewards and mess attendants. That only changed after the start of World War II and the well publicized heroics of Mess Attendant Doris "Dorrie" Miller at Pearl Harbor. All enlisted ratings were opened (or should I say RE-opened) to all races in 1942 and the first Black officers were commissioned in 1944.

Black Gang

I suspect some, if not all, of the crew members shown here were part of Brooklyn's "black gang," those whose work space was the ship's engine rooms where they shoveled coal into the maw of furnaces or kept the machinery oiled and operating. The coveralls and generally, uh, not spotless personal appearance of some of the sailors lends weight to my guess.

Re: "New Navy"

The Fire Grenades were filled with a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, but worked just like described in a previous post.

The large plaques describe capacity of these particular coal bunkers in this part of the ship. The "sluice" may describe the discharge overboard of the coal ash from down in the fire room.

To the viewer's left, on the racks, are the crew's "Ditty Boxes." These were issued to each Sailor for stowage of his personal items. The Sailors in the middle of the photo are playing cards on one. Uniforms were stowed in sea bags, which are lashed to the pipe racks below the boxes. The numbers on the Ditty Boxes correspond to the numbers on the hammock clews (hooks). These numbers would be on the small labels by each hook (can't discern in the photo...) This number corresponds to the number on the muster list that was assigned to each crewman when he reported aboard. While obviously posed, this photo still shows how crowded Navy ships were then. Manpower still reined over technology then.

Fire Grenades

I believe those bottles are fire grenades. Probably filled with carbon tetrachloride.

In Case of Fire

Those are fire extinguishers. You threw them at the base of the fire where they shattered and (hopefully) put the fire out.

My grade school still had them hanging in the hallways in the 1960s.

"New Navy"

Brooklyn was a large (10,000 ton) armored cruiser commissioned in 1896; she was new when this picture was taken. However the "period" details show how much of the "New Navy" of steel ships that started in the 1880's melded traditional and "new" features.

Above the steel beams is wooden deck planking, not just sheathing but the real thing; it had to be caulked now and then to prevent leaks. (You can still see this detail if you visit the museum ship Olympia in Philadelphia.) The deck the men are sitting/standing on is also wood planked. Those beams have plaques with labels attached to their webs (wish I could read them, they aren't quite sharp enough on my computer even at high res). Note the hooks: are these hammock hooks like in the Age of Sail?

The crew uniforms are evidently not standardized -- note the varied hats and the special, pointy shoes worn by the black sailor in the center foreground, sitting on the deck. Black sailors served on USN ships routinely before the Civil War but afterward, most sources say they could only be cooks and stewards. Maybe this wasn't true yet in 1897?

Because of my sea time on recent Navy ships I at first thought the numbered bins on the left were crew lockers. Looking more carefully at the rack with canvas bags hanging from it in the left lower corner of the photo, I'm not so sure -- those bags might have been "sea bags" for personal effects, meaning lockers hadn't been introduced yet?

The ventilator in the left upper corner, on the other hand, looks amazingly "modern." There was forced air ventilation (first used in USS Monitor) on this ship. But there was no air conditioning!

The flash for this photo must have been terribly bright -- the sailors nearest the camera have their eyes closed.

Lots of good details, as I've come to expect from Shorpy.

The plaques

Say what?

[The big one gives cubic footage for "inner bunker" and "outer bunker." - The others say "sluice." Dave]


I'm fascinated by those three bottles on the wall. I wonder what they might have been for?

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