Friday, August 13, 2010

Fullbore Friday

My Grandfather's Navy, thanks to the good people over at the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Take the time to click here for the whole video. Well worth your time. Here is the background.
U.S. Navy of 1915 (1915)
Production Company: Lyman H. Howe Company. Transfer Note: Digital file made from a 35mm negative. Running Time: 11 minutes (silent, no music).

We are indebted to independent scholar Charles “Buckey” Grimm for identifying this 11-minute piece of the celebrated “lost” three-reel documentary U.S. Navy of 1915, produced by the Lyman H. Howe Company. (The piece had formerly been known only as “U.S. Navy Fragment.”) The film was made with the full support of the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, who believed in the power of motion pictures to convince isolationists of the importance of building a strong American navy. A former newspaperman who knew the value of publicity, Daniels allowed Howe’s camera crew remarkable shipboard access. The results show sailors as they go about their day—doing repairs, cleaning the deck, exercising, as well as demonstrating naval might. The film drew praise as capturing “the pulse-beat of the complex life that throbs through our dreadnoughts from reveille to ‘taps.’”

This was not first time the Navy had turned to film to tell its story. Early on, the Navy had collaborated with the Biograph Company on a now-lost series of 60 short films showing sailors and officers at work. The series screened at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland before being put to use in a Midwest recruitment tour. Naval facilities and ships also figured prominently in early newsreels and narratives. The service took care to ensure that depictions presented it in a favorable light and reserved the right, for commercial films shot with official approval, to reuse them for the Navy’s own purposes.

Buckey identified the fragment through careful detective work involving the ships and ordnance on display in the fragment. For example, the “E-2” class submarine, pictured in the opening scene, was taken out of service in 1915, and the shells mentioned in a intertitle—“It costs the U.S. government $970.00 for each 14 inch projectile fired”—were added to the naval arsenal the year earlier. The clincher was matching a frame from the documentary with an image used in a newspaper piece to illustrate the Howe film. Buckey reported his research at the 2010 Orphan Film Symposium at New York University.

Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1856, Lyman Hakes Howe got his start as a traveling salesman. In the 1880s he switched to lecturing and demonstrated a miniature working coal mine on the road. When movies came along, he was among the first to make the transition. He devised his own projector, the Animotiscope, which upgraded the Edison machine by adding a second reel, and playing a phonograph to add sound. Soon he was making his own travelogues and newsreels. Little survives of his output other than this fragment.

About the Preservation
The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia generously lent the nitrate print to make the preservation copies. Edge codes on the source material date from 1917, suggesting this print of an earlier film may have been distributed to demonstrate American naval strength after the United States entered World War I. New prints are available at the Library of Congress and the NFSA.
My favorites? Swim call while taking on stores. PT - and the fact they worked in what we now call a dress uniform.

Hat tip Steve.


Curtis said...

I dare to say that there was not one PO at firefighting school that sent signed on trainees back to their ships because they had failed show up in their best working dress uniform without irish pendants, stains, or paint on them, expecting as they all did, that fire fighting school would be the ruination total of any working denim uniform.

Every mother's son did that at fire fighting school.  Kind of why most of us despised the shore training establishment.  Then the little sh3ts would send a message to SURFPAC and TRAPAC announcing that we had FAILED to meet our agreed upon training quota after they dismissed 32% of the quota as unfit due to "uniforn aint up to uniform discipline"  Division Officer aboard ship to answer in writing.

Don't really know about you. The utterly evervescent stupidty of the shore side staffs, commands and enlisted rivaled a visit to Oz.

I must say, it did cut short any teeny tiny invisible ambition I ever had to rise to the distinguished rank of VADM and take the place of dirk debbink.  Sadly, he's not the first to get rolled by that staff of TARS and FTS [THEY CHANGE THEIR NAME SO CAN TRY TO KEEP AHEAD OF SHAME].  Vaughn was the first and worst and sad to say, Butler followed.  2 stars that felt themselves at the mercy of the FTS. Hell, the last FTS RADM used to smoke on the roof since he didn't have the balls to smoke in his office unlike the CTF 56 or other FY2.

One might say they sacrificed everything and it might well be true.  I'm glad I opted for the path, more traveled by. 

If I may usurp.  Making the decision in the old navy used to be one that one owned up to at LTJG.  One bought into it lock stock barrel.  One oozed and schmoozed from that point on and called upon favors for follow on assignments.

Oh heck.  It is PHIBS blog, not mine.  Commenters who run over 20 lines should be blackholed forever.

Curtis said...

They all sloppily hung their mattresses over the RAILINGS in PLAIN SITE!!!!

although, I think A gang would have benefited greatly from that ancient habit.

I think that there was a dif between a picture of warhip in the every day and warship on King's Parade. or sail or regatta or what they called it.  Never saw pics of Tirptitz, Arc Royal, King George the V with mattress out for airing did we?

cdrsalamander said...

Not sure what this has to do with Pre-WWI Navy; but OK.

cdrsalamander said...

I think there is something very American in the way they did this.  No need for a Potempkin viewing - just show Sailors doing what Sailors do in the manner they do it. 

Pre-Social Realism.  Pre-PAO.  Pre-spin.  Pre-NAVOSH for sure - but that is the Navy my Gunners Mate Grandfather was in - and I think it is a wonderful gift compared to the faded photos and staged postcards that one usually finds from this era.

Sometimes a FbF is just that - a FbF.

DJF said...


This is also pre-air-conditioning and if you did not air out the bedding regularly the berthing would get foul very quickly.

USS Salem (CA 139) and USS Newport News (CA 148) were the first two major US warships equipped with widespread use of air-conditioning. Prior to that on a hot night you would just sweat.

AW1 Tim said...

I saw this film clip a couple months back. You can see first hand what it was like to load both ammunition for the main batteries, as well as coal. Also, those scenes with the first early submarines are nifty.

All in all, a great window into the past showing sailors in their everyday working environment.

Thanks for remining me about this clip. It's even better the 2nd & 3rd times around.  :)

AW1 Tim said...

Here's another interesting point: Before and during WWII, mattresses and bedding were issued items, and you carried yours from ship to station and back again. My father still has his mattress and bedding, all rolled tight as a drum and lashed with two lengths of manila line.  His seabag was white duck and he has most of his issue kit. He went through Great Lakes in 1939 and mentioned that their were no bunks in the recruit barracks, only hammocks rigged three high from steel poles.

One point about hammocks and mattresses. Up through WWI, at least, these were rolled up every morning after reveillie and taken topside where they were stowed along the decks. These were used to provide an extra level of protection against splinters and small arms fire for those whose battle stations were topside, especially in the age of sail and early steam.

Curtis said...

Sorry Phib,

That was hyperbole. I read all the classics of navy life.  Every single one of them mentioned hanging out the hammocks and bedding.  It was done for a number of reasons all of them with a solid purpose.

Curtis said...

no, i don't think so.  It was airing bedding and mattresses.

they were flammable and they blogged eductors like you would not believe.  Best left topside if nobody was using them.

Curtis said...

Couldn't agree more sir.

I was joking about the thing and there was every much reason behind it as preventive measures against scurvy.  Hundreds and hundreds of years went into the dying of the crew for no particular reason.  Over time, they found some.

Curtis said...

hey sir,
all of them I've read,


Kristen said...

What a great find.  I love these glimpses into bygone days.  It's like a trip in a time machine.

AW1 Tim said...

 When they were being aired out, they were hung over the rails, and not rolled and triced up.


Aubrey said...

The IJN continued to do this all through WW2

C-dore 14 said...

Agree with AW1.  John Alden's, <span>The American Steel Navy</span> has a photo (pg. 276) showing early 20th Century sailors stowing their bedding in main deck lockers, called "nettings", as part of the morning routine.  The text explained that they would muster daily at 1930 to draw their bedding.

My first two ships would "air bedding" on a quarterly basis.  As I understand it, the practice ceased in the late 70s when they determined that foam mattresses and air conditioning made it unnecessary. 

BTW, if you can get a copy of the book it has an excellent collection of a sailor's life in those days as well as of the ships they served in.

C-dore 14 said...

An excellent clip.  I really enjoyed watching it, especially the part showing those submarine guys all managing to get into the same uniform ;)

C-dore 14 said...

Let's make that last " excellent collection of photos of..."

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site
Is this possible?

Anonymous said...

Added to my reading list, thanks C-dore! BTW, I'm trying to do some research on the cruise of the Great White Fleet so any suggestions on that are much appreciated

UltimaRatioRegis said...

I bet Salamander would recommend "Imperial Cruise". wouldn't you, Phib?  :-P

Anonymous said...

Most cool.  My grandfather's navy.  In fact, a bell went off when I saw USS WYOMING in the film. 

I pulled out his leather bound pocket-sized service record and found that he was a GM3 onboard USS WYOMING circa 1915.

GBS said...

<span>Most cool.  My grandfather's navy.  In fact, a bell went off when I saw USS WYOMING in the film.  
I pulled out his leather bound pocket-sized service record and found that he was a GM3 onboard USS WYOMING circa 1915.</span>

YatYas said...

Great footage of a bygone era.  It too was my maternal grandfather's Navy.  Unfortunately, he died when I was 3, so never got to hear about his service during "The Great War."

Curtis said...

I was auxo, on fleet flagship and totally joking.... :} 

did you see the way they bounced those 14 inch shells around.  Only BM could be that evervescent.

1st and 2nd Divisions and 3rd ....I remember them well.