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Torpedo Gunners: 1896

1896. "Gunner's gang, U.S.S. Maine." The Shorpy shakedown cruise continues. Glass negative by Edward H. Hart, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

1896. "Gunner's gang, U.S.S. Maine." The Shorpy shakedown cruise continues. Glass negative by Edward H. Hart, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


On Shorpy:
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John Henry Turpin (1876-1962)

One of the first black Chief Petty Officers in the Navy.

The hands of Adam

The man on our far left has hands like Michelangelo would
paint especially in "Creation of Adam." A little more info on the photo:

USS Maine (1895-1898). "Gunner's Gang," photographed in one of the ship's torpedo rooms. Published in Uncle Sam's Navy (1898).

Note the Chief Petty Officer with gold lace chevrons and black sailor at far left who is likely Mess Attendant (and later Chief Gunner's Mate) John Henry "Dick" Turpin.

Cheshire Cat

Chief seems to have swallowed a canary.

Torpedo Tube

I believe this is one of the USS Maine's torpedo tubes. The ship had four 14-inch tubes above the waterline (see attached photo). If this is the torpedo room I circled in the photo, then these men had their image taken right about where the explosion occurred that sank the ship.

Would this be the same

Would this be the same U.S.S. Maine that blew up in Havana Harbor, sparking the Spanish-American War?

[It was indeed. - Dave]

"Handsome Sailor"

The sailor on the far left, from Billy Budd: "With no perceptible trace of the vainglorious about him, rather with the off-hand unaffectedness of natural regality."


As a 10 year veteran of the US Navy, I am fascinated by these Navy pics. I have spent a few hours studying them, the uniforms, the ships, I don't understand why the Navy started going racist in the years that follow, but when I served the Navy was probably more equal than the United States was!

This picture really grabbed me, the Master Chief Petty Officer in the center. To get to Master Chief these days is hard; considering his age, I wonder if he was a war hero!

The only other rank I see is the two men with three stripes of piping on their jumper backflaps.

Another thing I have noticed is the age. When I served (1970s-'80s) the average age was about 22. The average age in the pics we have seen lately is probably 28 or more.

Torpedo Gun and Gunners

Those gunners are posed next to one of the Maine's four 14-inch torpedo tubes, which launched torpedoes through openings in the battleship's sides.

One of these tubes was salvaged from the sunken wreck and is now on display at North Avenue Park in Pittsburgh, Pa.

There's a photo of this same tube (but with a smaller crew) posted here.


What an breathtaking set of photos! These pictures of the Crew of the USS Maine really do set a precedent. Some of the most human and tragic photos yet since we know what will happen in two years hence. Thank you.

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