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Early History of California

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The Museum's U.S. Navy History

History of Mare Island

The Museum's Maritime History


Historic Ship Independence is Placed
Out of Commission at Mare Island.


Movement on Foot to Preserve Relic as an Exhibit for 1915 Exposition.
Special Dispatch to the “Chronicle.”

Photograph of the U.S.S. Independence at Mare IslandVALLEJO, November 19. —The historic old frigate Independence, for the past fifty-four years receiving ship at Mare island and the oldest ship in the United States Navy, was placed out of commission at Mare island this morning. The ceremony of hauling down the flag was a simple one, and the men and property were formally transferred to the more modern cruiser Cleveland, lately returned from Nicaragua.

Just what will be done with the Independence has not as yet been officially announced. It has been frequently reported that the directors of the Panama-Pacific Exposition would make some arrangements with the Government whereby the relic of another century would become one of the exhibits in 1915. As yet official word to this effect has never been received here.

Prominent Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West have petitioned the Government to retain the Independence because of its association with the early history of California. For that reason it has often been referred to as “the naval Argonaut,” it having first sailed up the coast in 1846, before the days of gold.

The keel of the Independence was laid down at Boston in 1812, it having been the intention of the Navy Department to have the ship ready for the war with England in that year. However, unfortunate delays occurred and the Independence was not launched until 1814, when as the flagship of Commodore Bainbridge it took a prominent part in the war against Algiers.

In 1836, the frigate was still the pride of the old white navy, and to keep it up-to-date it was cut down to three stacks, and the guns reduced from seventy-four to fifty-four. At this time the Independence was good for ten knots an hour in the wind, which was considered very fast time.

In 1846, commanded by Commodore Shubrick, the Independence paid its first visit to California, having come around the horn to harass the Mexican coast, at the time of the war with that country. Returning to the east coast, the frigate became the flagship of the European squadron. It returned to this coast eight years later and has been at Mare island ever since.

The old frigate displaces 3700 tons, which is one-tenth of the displacement of the new Pennsylvania. Its value at this time is in the brass used in its make up. At that time, copper was a cheap metal, and every bolt, rivet and rod on the Independence is of that mineral.

San Francisco Chronicle
November 20, 1912

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