Canvas and steel, 130 years ago today

Here we see the early Boston-class protected cruiser USS Atlanta in Boston harbor, 11 August 1890, with bluejackets on her yardarms during the Eastern Yacht Club Regatta.

A member of the so-called “New Navy” of the 1880s, Atlanta, and her sistership Boston were some of the first steel warships of the U.S. Navy and showcased such modern attributes as steel armor plating, rapid-fire breechloading guns, and complex steam engineering plants. Still, as a throwback to the days of sail, they were also equipped with extensive auxiliary sail rigs to increase their cruising range– and provide insurance against powerplant failures.

These new and beautiful warships were assigned to the Squadron of Evolution, also referred to as the “White Squadron” for obvious reasons, which globetrotted the world prior in the decade leading up to the Spanish-American War, after which they were soon obsolete.

Still, they were beautiful in their time in the sun and inspired the artists of the day.

Painting of The White Squadron: USS ATLANTA, USS CHICAGO, USS YORKTOWN, and USS BOSTON with USS CHICAGO in the foreground. Watercolor by Fred S. Cozzens, 1892. Lithographed by Armstrong & Co. Copied from “Our Navy- Its Growth and Achievements,” copyright 1897. #: NH 335

“Peace” painting by Walter L. Dean, published in “Harper ‘s Weekly”‘ circa 1893. it shows the “White Squadron” in Boston Harbor, during the early 1890s. Ship in the center is USS Chicago. USS Newark is at left and USS Atlanta is at right. This painting is now in the U.S. Capitol. NH 95137

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