Battleship Kansas.Toward the close of the nineteenth century, when an agitation in favor of a larger and more powerful navy was started, the navy department adopted the custom of naming the new battleships after the states. One of the early vessels to be thus named was the ill-fated Maine, which was blown up in the harbor of Havana, the incident being one of the principal causes of the declaration of war against Spain in the spring of 1898.
The Fifty-seventh Congress made appropriations for the construction of several new battleships, and on Jan. 20, 1903, the Kansas legislature passed a resolution requesting the members of Congress from the state to use their influence to have one of the new ships named the "Kansas." An order to that effect was issued, and work on the vessel was commenced at Camden, N. J., the following November. The keel was laid early in 1904, and on Aug. 12, 1905, Gov. Hoch, accompanied by his staff and a number of prominent Kansans, visited Camden to be present at the ceremony of launching. On such occasions it is usually the custom to break a bottle of champagne or other wine against the prow of the vessel as it starts from the ways, but as Kansas was known to be a prohibition state, it was decided to dispense with the wine and use water instead. The day was warm and sultry and the governor's staff, in full uniform, suffered from the heat during several vexatious delays, but at 12:40 p. m. the great marine monster began slowly to move down the incline to her watery home. Miss Anna Hoch, the governor's daughter, who acted as sponsor, stood upon a platform with a bottle of water from the John Brown spring in Linn county, Kan., and at the signal she smashed the bottle against the ship's prow, repeating the customary formula, "I christen thee Kansas"; but her voice was lost in the cheering that greeted the great ship as it glided down the ways.
The Kansas is 450 feet long at the load water line, the greatest breadth is 76 feet 10 inches, and the mean draught is 24 feet 6 inches. Her displacement is 16,000 tons, and her engines have a total horse power of 19,545, giving her a speed of 18 knots an hour. The coal bunkers have a capacity of 2,200 tons, though 900 tons constitute the normal supply. Altogether she carries 3,992 tons of armor, the sides being protected by plates 9 inches in thickness, the turrets by 12-inch armor, and the barbette by 10-inch. Her main battery consists of 24 guns, four of which are of 12-inch caliber; eight are 8-inch, and twelve are 7-inch, all breech-loading rifles. The secondary battery includes twenty 3-inch rapid fire guns; twelve 3-pounder semi-automatic; two 1-pounder automatic; two 3-inch field guns, and two 30-caliber automatic. When manned by a full complement her force would consist of 41 officers and 815 men. The total cost of the Kansas was $7,565,620, being exceeded in this respect at the time of her completion only by the Connecticut, which cost $7,911,175.
Two gifts were made by the State of Kansas to the battleship bearing her name. The Daughters of the American Revolution gave a fine stand of colors, and the legislature of 1905 appropriated $5,000 for the purchase of a silver service, of special design. Competitive bids and designs were submitted, the contract being finally awarded to Edward Vail of Wichita, Kan. The silver service consisted of 35 pieces, bearing appropriate designs of Kansas scenes and sunflowers. It was presented to the ship at the League Island navy yard, Philadelphia, Pa., June 17, 1907, by Gov. Hoch, whose speech of presentation was responded to by Capt. Charles E. Vreeland, commander of the vessel, who claimed the State of Kansas as his home. After the presentation the huge silver punch bowl was filled with lemonade for the refreshment of the assembled guests.
The Kansas went into commission on June 18, 1907, under command of Capt. Vreeland, and was one of the four first class battleships that went on the Pacific cruise the following December. Capt. Vreeland was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral, and the Kansas was placed under the command of Capt. Charles J. Badger. On Dec. 1, 1910, the ship was in the second division of the Atlantic fleet, composed of the Kansas, the Louisiana, the New Hampshire and the South Carolina.Page XX from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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