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The Great White Fleet entering Sydney Harbour through the Heads

Date: c 1908
Overall: 1400 x 2250 x 100 mm, 14 kg
Medium: Oil on canvas, gilt frame
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00050474
Related Place:Sydney Harbour,

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    This painting of the American Great White Fleet's visit to Sydney in 1908 has been attributed to the Australian artist Rupert Bunny. The painting depicts the Great White Fleet entering Sydney Harbour surrounded by boats of onlookers. This painting illustrates the grand scale of the celebrations surrounding the Fleet visit, and the importance of the visit to the future of the American-Australian alliance.
    SignificanceThis grand scale painting records one of the most anticipated naval events in 20th century Australian history. It may have been painted in the days after the arrival of the American Fleet during the height of the public’s interest or after the fact using one of the many colour supplements printed at the time.
    HistoryIn December 1907 United States President Theodore Roosevelt sent a 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.
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