US Navy Ships at Rose Festival, 1908

This photo was probably taken during the 1908 Rose Festival when the “Mosquito Squadron” visited Portland. The destroyers Preble, Perry and Farragut, and the torpedo boats Fox and Davis were among the ships in attendance. This photo shows two destroyers (larger ships in the background) and two torpedo boats. Coincidentally, the Fox and Davis, along with a third torpedo boat Goldsborough, were built in 1898-99 at Wolff & Zwicker Iron Works at the foot of Hawthorne on Portland’s east side.

This spectacular photo features some of downtown Portland’s skyline. The Lewis & Flanders Block/Ankeny Block (center with water tower), and the Kamm Block with distinctive finials, featured here last week, both stand out. Between them, the Crane Co. sign can still be seen today on the New Market Annex building. This photo comes to us via Roxanne Cummings, whose friend Eric Ammerman found some old glass photo plates in a friend’s attic. This is a great find and perhaps published here for the first time.

(Eric Ammerman/Roxanne Cummings)

13 thoughts on “US Navy Ships at Rose Festival, 1908

  1. Wow, great photo! A couple of things.

    1. Just on the right edge you can see a portion of the old Morrison swing bridge.

    2. Any ideas which sternwheeler is in the background? I know it’s not the current Portland because it was built in 1947,

    3. Finally, those are brave men in the US Navy. I can only image being on one of those destroyers or t-boats trying to cross the Columbia River Bar or just being out in a nice Oregon winter storm…looks like they had very little protection while on top…

  2. Thank you Roxanne and Eric! Great view and subject matter.

    @Todd, I think the bridge on the right is the original Steel Bridge. I believe the Morrison would be just out of sight to the left. Perhaps the photo was taken from the East end ramp to the Morrison Bridge.

    I’m with you on the t-boats and destroyers. The torpedo boats look like they could be rolled over with a medium size wave. I wonder what kind of message the sailors on board are sending with their laundry semaphore. Maybe they’re texting the ladies and Erickson’s Saloon.

  3. I have seen a later “Preble” coming in for Rose Festival with one of the fireboats spewing red, blue & white water. Doesn’t look anything like these tho’. I think they keep recycling the names. I’m pretty sure this is the first time these have been seen, tho’ I did give digital copies to the Maritime Museum. I think they ID’d the stern wheeler for me but I don’t have my notes in front of me at the moment. I cleaned up the photos a bit and hooked a left and right half together to get one coherent photo. The original photographer shot two separate plates.

  4. The Kamm building was on Pine, so we are looking at northern Southwest Portland. The bridge at the right must be the original Burnside Bridge. The gas storage tank at right probably is on the site of the current NW Natural Gas building at the end of the Steel Bridge. The street coming down to the water at left is probably Stark or Oak.

    There were still lots of sternwheelers in 1908, so good luck in identifying her.

    I have to add my astonishment at the size of those Navy craft. Those were *seagoing* vessels? Wow.

  5. Great photo, Roxanne. And, Carter, that gas tank is where NW Natural Gas is today. That tank has shown up over and over again in photos that Dan’s posted in the past. I think it was removed around 1960 when the current headquarters were built.

  6. Superb photos! The clarity is stunning. Destroyers seem to run in my family: my husband served on the Arnold J. Isbell in the 1970s and my son is currently on the Momsen. I have to say that I’m glad modern day destroyers are significantly bigger and stronger than those 1908 vessels! Thanks for an awesome blog, Dan.

  7. Okay I have more information about some the ships that were built here in Portland, particularly the USS Fox. The U.S. Navy has a historical archive of pictures of it being built here in Portland. This link takes you to these pictures.

    The names of the ships are named after famous American naval officers…Commodore Preble, Admiral’s Perry and Farragaut, etc…

    @Jim. I got to thinking and I wondered if that bridge is actually the original Burnside Bridge. I don’t think it’s the first Steel Bridge by just look at the shape of the supports/trusses.

  8. Yeah Todd.

    I think Carter Kennedy and your rethinking are correct. It’s more likely to be the original Burnside bridge than the Steel Bridge. My copies of Bridges of Portland is out on loan, so I’m going from my own faulty memory. 🙂

  9. There were several more plates but none of them show the waterfront to quite the same extent. There is one of the USS Sr. Louis up by what I think must be the Customs House from the same era and also some older ones of what I think must be Roosevelts “Great White Fleet” as the ships are painted white and have some very fancy bow work. One of the ships sank off Northern CA in 1901 or something like that so they must be pre-that. Also have a few of the Oregon both per 1901 and sometime around WWI when they started getting radio towers. I was sort of wondering if they came into the Portland shipyards to be fitted for those….Dan has most of the digitizations of the plates and he did a lot of homework to come up with his commentary above, kudos to you Dan, I had a vague idea what ships they might be but didn’t find the info about the Mosquito Fleet and the Rose Festival. Good detective work. If Dan posts anymore, there were two I was unable to ID, so if anyone knows, finds out who (is that right, if they are shes?) the ships were, I’d sure like to know. Wore myself out going thru’ USN photo files of ships. The one of the Rio de Janiero (if posted) is, as far as I know, the only existing photo in the world of that ship.

  10. A closer look at the background bldgs shows that on the extreme right one of the bldgs says “Preferred” something or other and also one of them on the far right but not quite to the edge says something “Transfer Company”. Confusingly, the Jones Cash Store and the Blake McFall company are both listed on the NRH places but both show address as 111 SE Belmont and 215 SE Ankeny. Maybe they moved there later? I assume any bldgs they had on the west side bit the dust LOOOOONG ago. I looked some of these places up in City Directories of the era and someplace have the address written down but I have such a pile of research here I am not sure where the answers are.

  11. The Morning Oregonian continually identifies the Preble, Perry and Farragut as torpedo boats also. In that picture they are definitely a different class, or at least design, though. I wonder if destroyers weren’t normally identified separately in those days.

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