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USA Fleet illuminations, Sydney Harbour

Date: 1908
84 x 135 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Posters and postcards
Object Name: Postcard
Object No: 00042635
Place Manufactured:Sydney
Related Place:Sydney Harbour,

User Terms

    This hand coloured photographic postcard depicts a night time view of the United States Great White Fleet, illuminated in Sydney Harbour. The ship lights have been hand coloured. The postcard was printed to commemorate the visit of the American Fleet to Australia in 1908. Postcards were the cheapest and most popular souvenir available to mark the American fleets visit.

    During the United States Great White Fleet visit, ‘Magnificent! Splendid! Beautiful!’ were the words used to describe the electric lighting and searchlights placed around Customs House, Martin Place and Circular Quay. Even the battleships themselves were lined from bow to stern in ‘dazzling brilliance’, in what culminated in a spectacular festival of light attended by thousands of people. State buildings were ‘lavishly’ decked out with coloured electric lighting to welcome the special international guests. Private firms were aglow and according to one report, Hyde Park was a ‘veritable fairy land’. Thousands lined the streets to look at the decorations, but the focus was on the battleships ablaze with colour and searchlights on the harbour and ‘the word “Welcome” in 20ft letters’ emblazoned from Fort Denison. Customs House was covered with coloured lights with ‘a large naval device, representing the good ship Mayflower’. 'The Sydney Morning Herald' noted it ‘is supported by medallions draped with flags, and the whole frontage is made gay with festoons of coloured lights and of greenery.’
    SignificanceThe visit of the American Great White Fleet in 1908 was an event of enormous proportions. Souvenir items such as this postcard demonstrate the excitement the visit generated amongst the Australian public. Memorabilia made to coincide with the occasion emphasised the mutual union between the countries and the goodwill of the Australian nation toward its American ally.
    HistoryIn December 1907 United States President Theodore Roosevelt sent the US Atlantic Battle Fleet of 16 battleships on a 14 month goodwill cruise around the world. The fleet was a chance for the Navy to practice seamanship and express America's world power. Roosevelt was also concerned about rising Japanese aggression and their expansionist foreign policy. The cruise would be a political and public relations exercise to build domestic support for more naval construction.

    Led by the flagship, USS CONNECTICUT, the Great White Fleet as it became known, consisted of 16 battleships painted white, as was the practice of all US Navy ships in times of peace. The ships sailed in four divisions of four ships each. Early in the voyage the order of the ships was altered to allow the best-looking vessels to be at the front of the fleet. The cruise incorporated six continents, 26 countries and 32 ports with 614 officers and 13,504 crew. It consumed 435,000 tons of coal, more than any other naval expedition and was the largest fleet to ever accomplish a circumnavigation of the globe.

    Australia was not originally on the itinerary route of the Great White Fleet, who only decided to visit after receiving a direct invitation from the Prime Minister Alfred Deakin. One quarter of the Australian population, over one million people, saw the Great White Fleet during its three-week visit to Sydney, Melbourne and Albany. Public holidays were declared and enthusiastic crowds flocked to see the ships and parades. Vast arrays of souvenirs were produced for a population caught up in the euphoria generated by the Great White Fleet's world tour in 1908. Badges, medallions, pins, postcards and photographs all reflected the enthusiasm surrounding a potential new and powerful ally. The postcards typically represent America and Australia as cooperative partners and commonly depict national motifs including flags, emblems and banners.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: USA Fleet Illuminations - Sydney Harbour

    Web title: USA Fleet illuminations, Sydney Harbour

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