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“Celebrating July 4th, 1898—‘The Triumph of the American Battle-ship,’” chromolithograph by Udo J. Keppler, Puck, July 6, 1898

An 1898 cartoon celebrated the nation’s Independence Day and the overwhelming success of its new battleships in the Spanish-American War. Uncle Sam displayed the proof of America’s naval power to figures representing England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Russia. Billowing smoke formed portraits of high-ranking U.S. Naval heroes of the recent war––including Rear Admiral George Dewey.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

“Celebrating July 4th, 1898—‘The Triumph of the American Battle-ship,’” chromolithograph by Udo J. Keppler, Puck, July 6, 1898

Strengthening American Sea Power

At the end of the nineteenth century, the United States became increasingly engaged in international affairs. Spurred by the writings of naval historian Alfred Thayer Mahan, author of The Influence of Sea Power upon History, proponents of a “Big Navy” called for state-of-the-art steel ships to protect the nation and its interests. Congress responded with the Battleship Act of 1890, the first significant legislation authorizing construction of new battleships. Inaugurating an era of greater U.S. naval power, the ships played a significant role in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

It is the sea power which is essential to the greatness of every splendid people. We are a great people; we control this continent; we are dominant in this hemisphere; we have too great an inheritance to be trifled with or parted with. It is ours to guard and to extend.

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, Speech to the U.S. Senate, March 2, 1895