"Remember the Maine!"
That was the rallying cry in the newspapers when the American battleship Maine
blew up and quickly sank in Havana Harbor in February 1898, killing three quarters of its crew.
had been sent there to protect U.S. interests during the Cuban uprising against Spain, and it was assumed that Spain was to blame for the explosion. (This was never proven.) The Spanish-American War began two months after the sinking.
As a result of the U.S. victory in the war, the United States received the Philippines, as well as the islands of Puerto Rico and Guam.
After the war, the Cuban government requested that the sunken Maine
to be removed from its harbor, as it was a navigational hazard and an eyesore to boot. So Congress authorized the raising of the Maine. The remains of approximately 75 crewmen were eventually recovered and buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The work connected with the raising and removal of the wreck was completed by the beginning of December 1912. Many artifacts of the battleship were salvaged, and much sought after by cities around the country, for display in parks and cemetaries.
In 1913, some of the brass work recovered from the Maine was made into special memorial tablets designed by famed sculptor Charles Keck.
Here's the announcement of the distribution of the tablets (courtesy of Rick Kurish) as it appeared in the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe
on May 4, 1913.
The face of the tablets read: IN MEMORIAM – USS MAINE. DESTROYED IN HAVANA HARBOR, FEBRUARY 15th, 1898. THIS TABLET IS CAST FROM METAL RECOVERED FROM THE USS MAINE.
The tablets (reportedly twelve hundred in number) were distributed around the country to various cities. Here’s one of these tablets today, located in Irvine Regional Park in Orange County, California. It has been inscribed with the names of men apparently from that area.
A quick look on Google reveals that many of the tablets turn up at auctions today. Here’s one (below
) that was sold on the liveauctioneers.com website.
The liveauctioneers.com website provides a detailed description. It notes, "This substantial (11 pounds weight) shiny bronze work is 13”
x 17.5”, mounted on a fine mahogany wooden plaque, 15.5” x 20.5”, and features
a relief of Lady Liberty holding a shield adorned with a heraldic eagle and
Federal shield, with the remains of the ship in the distance. The shield reads:
“PATRIOTISM DEVOTION”, surrounded by stars. The title and caption of the plaque
read: “IN MEMORIAM - U.S.S. MAINE - DESTROYED IN HAVANA HARBOR FEBRUARY 15TH
1898. THIS TABLET IS CAST FROM METAL RECOVERED FROM THE U.S.S. MAINE.” Signed
relief letters in the lower right corner: “C. Keck Sc., 1913 Cast by Jno.
Williams, Inc., NY.” This highly patriotic historical item is quite stunning
and attractive and ready to mount on its own prepared display."
Here’s one (below) that somehow escaped the auctioneers, on display in Tarboro, North Carolina.
So... where does Lorain fit into this story? Stop back here tomorrow to find out!