The caption of this card, “Fleet & Breakwater from Hill, Rockport, Mass.,” is barely legible, printed in white in the lower left corner. I have another version of this card with the same photo and from the same publisher, but with the caption printed in black in the upper left. Neither card is dated, but the other one is postmarked 1907.
I’ve posted other images of these warships (here and here) and described how the town celebrated the fleet’s arrival. As I’ve noted, the U.S. Navy’s North Atlantic Squadron was a regular late-summer visitor to Rockport in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The warships came here to engage in war games and naval maneuvers. A report in the Aug. 20, 1902, New York Times, gives a taste of what this was like, under the headline, “The War Game is On”:
Some time between midnight and sunrise war will be declared on the North Atlantic Coast and all of real war lacking will be the absence of solid shot and bloodshed. Every requirement of actual war, scout ships and all, is to be used in the contest incidental to the manoeuvres of the North Atlantic squadron between the home fleet, commanded by Admiral Higginson, and the attacking squadron, under Commander Pillsbury, who ranks in the manoeuvres as a foreign Admiral.
The strictest of discipline is being maintained, and to all intents and purposes the vessels off Cape Ann and the defenses along the coast are on a war footing.
To-night Admiral Higginson’s squadron is lying in Rockport Harbor some distance out. Not a light shows on any of the vessels, save an occasional signal flash. From the funnels of the battleships huge volumes of smoke are issuing, which indicates that Higginson is preparing for action, The actual whereabouts of Pillsbury are unknown.
The smaller boat that can be seen entering the harbor was, I believe, a sort of water taxi used to ferry visitors from vessels to shore. It shows up regularly in old views of the harbor.
The postcard was published by The Rotograph Co. of New York City and was printed in Germany.
Thank you for posting these amazing cards. It is great seeing Rockport history from these historic post cards and your historic notes.
That was the Great White Fleet and, about the same time, there was a move afoot to
build(the now uncompleted) breakwater off Rockport. The idea was to have a safe harbor there that would hold many warships. Rockport was chosen because it is a
point closer than many US ports to europe and because of the granite available on Cape Ann to build it. After WW-I the quarries were failing and the whole plan was considered too expensive because we had just fought the war to end all wars.
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Imagine a parallel universe, where Rockport became a US Naval base like Newport News. Bearskin Neck would have become a Pottersville of bars, brothels, and gambling dens.
Hah! That’s what some people said would happen when Rockport voted to stop being a dry town.