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Souvenir silkwork of the Great White Fleet

Date: 1908
Overall: 1145 x 685 mm
Medium: Silk, paint
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Silkwork
Object No: 00046170

User Terms

    This souvenir silkwork commemorates the Great White Fleet journey in 1908. At the center of the piece is an embroiderd US flag with three photographic images on silk of two uniformed admirals the third at the center and dressed in formal attire is US President Theodore Roosevelt. The lower third of the work contains a painting on silk of the Great White fleet vessels. At the bottom is a photographic insert on paper, of a young sailor, to the proper right is a stack of embrodered cannon balls and to the left is two crossed monocular. The work is embroidered at the top in white thread with: "IN MEMORY OF OUR FAMOUS CRUISE AROUND THE WORLD", under which is an eagle. The bottom is embroidered with: "E PLURIBUS UNUM".
    SignificanceThis flag represents the visit of the Great White Fleet to Australia and other nations in 1908 as part of its peace time world tour.
    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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