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Sailors from the battle fleet viewing the ruins of Messina, Sicily, destroyed by earthquake 28 December 1908

Date: 1909
Dimensions:
Overall: 90 x 137 mm
Medium: Photographic print on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Posters and postcards
Object Name: Postcard
Object No: 00015002
Place Manufactured:United States

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    Description
    This souvenir postcard was produced to commemorate the American Great White Fleet world tour from 1907 – 1909. The postcard is titled ‘Sailors from the battle fleet viewing the ruins of Messina, Sicily, destroyed by earthquake Dec. 28, 1908’. The postcard features a group of sailors standing along a roadway adjacent to a ruined building in Messina, Italy. The Fleet began its tour on 16 December 1907 and after visiting a number of countries during 1908, it sailed to Messina, Italy in early 1909 to offer support following the earthquake.
    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 good will 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.

    The Great White Fleet began its tour on 16 December 1907 from Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Fleet sailed to Trinidad, the British West Indies, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Mexico before sailing up the West Coast of America. The Fleet visited San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Monterey, California before berthing at San Francisco, California from 6 May - 7 July 1908. On 7 July, the Fleet departed for the third and final legs of its tour, visiting Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippine’s, Japan, and Ceylon before arriving at Suez, Egypt on 3 January 1909. Once the Fleet became aware of the earthquake in Sicily, the CONNECTICUT, CULGOA, ILLINOIS and YANKTON were sent to Messina, Italy to offer support and assistance. The Fleet left Messina on 9 January 1909, stopping at Naples and Gibraltar before returning home to Hampton Roads, Virginia on 22 February 1909.

    Vast arrays of souvenirs were produced for a population caught up in the euphoria generated by the Great White Fleet's world tour. Badges, medallions, pins, postcards and photographs all reflected the enthusiasm surrounding the tour.
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