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Home Articles/Reference ADMIRAL DEWEY’S LAMP

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(H1 - 103; Considered to be "rare")

 Patriotic Memento of the Spanish-American War

By Barry Schwartz

On January 25, 1898, the 2nd class U.S. Battleship "Maine" sailed into Havana Harbor at the request of American Consul Fizhugh Lee (a nephew of Robert E. Lee) in order to "protect American interests" (Cuban rebels were at the time attempting to obtain independence from Spain). 

In the three weeks in which the Maine was in Havana Harbor, according to Captain Charles Sigsbee, the relationship between the officers and crew of the Maine and the Spanish governor and Spanish military in Havana was quite cordial and gentlemanly.  The Americans had been lavishly entertained by the Spanish and had entertained Spanish officers on board the Maine.  Shortly after "Taps" had been sounded (at 9:10 PM on the night of February 15, 1898), Captain Sigsbee was sitting at his desk writing to his wife; he described what happened next:

"I laid down my pen and listened to the notes of the bugle, which were singularly beautiful in the oppressive stillness of the night. . . . I was enclosing my letter in its envelope when the explosion came. It was a bursting, rending, and crashing roar of immense volume, largely metallic in character. It was followed by heavy, ominous metallic sounds. There was a trembling and lurching motion of the vessel, a list to port. The electric lights went out. Then there was intense blackness and smoke.

The situation could not be mistaken. The Maine was blown up and sinking. For a moment the instinct of self-preservation took charge of me, but this was immediately dominated by the habit of command." (quotation reproduced in an article by Small Planet Communications posted on the Internet).


Two hundred and sixty-two American sailors died as a result of the explosion and another fifty-one were wounded.  The Department of the Navy conducted an exhaustive investigation of the explosion but was unable to determine the cause of, or assess blame for, the destruction of the Maine. 

That did not, however, stop William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York Journal, from claiming that the Spanish had attached a mine to the hull of the Maine and exploded it remotely from shore.  Hearst, along with his competitor in yellow journalism, Joseph Pulitzer, fanned the flames of American anger at the sinking and whipped the country into anti-Spanish patriotic fervor.  The battle cry became "Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain".  On April 25, 1898, a formal declaration of war with Spain was issued.  On May 1, Admiral George Dewey initiated the first battle of the war when he led his fleet into Manila Bay (in the Philippines) and attacked the Spanish fleet.  He began the battle by issuing the famous order to his Executive Officer "You may fire when ready, Gridley".  By August 12, 1989, the war ended.  Although the war was short, its impact was great.  Spanish colonialism in the Pacific and the Caribbean was ended.  The United States took control of the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island and Puerto Rico. While Cuba gained its independence, it was during the war (on June 10, 1898) that a Marine battalion landed at Guantanamo Bay--a presence which eventually led to the U.S.'s long-term lease of the area, the establishment of a U. S. Naval base there and the U.S.'s current use of the facility as a detainment camp.

The lamp, which is shown in Figure 103 of Marjorie Hulsebus' first book "Miniature Victorian Lamps", commemorates that war, the sinking of the Maine and Admiral Dewey's prominent role in the war and victory in Manila Bay.  The body, or font, of the lamp consists of a copper and brass artillery shell or bullet.  Embossed on one side of the copper shell casing is a warship (we don't know if its supposed to represent the Maine or Dewey's flagship, the cruiser "Olympia") surrounded by the words "ADMIRAL DEWEY'S LAMP".  Embossed on the other side of the shell are two crossed flags (one the U. S. flag, the other the 4 star flag of an Admiral of the Navy--the highest rank in the Navy and, in the history of the U. S. Navy, a rank held only by Dewey).  Between the two flags is a naval anchor surrounded by a star-topped wreath.  The words "REMEMBER THE MAINE" are above and below the flags.  The font sits on black cast iron legs formed in the shape of crossed cannons and attached to the font with spherical brass nuts.  The lamp's shade is a white milk glass globe with an intricate and detailed painting of a steaming warship (again we don't know if this is the Maine or the Olympia) flying the U. S. flag.  Figures of the ship's crew can be seen at various positions on the ship.  Next to the ship, and slightly astern of it, is a much smaller vessel (a gun-boat of some kind) which also appears to be flying an American flag.



Barry and Kay Schwartz sell miniature lamps on ebay, under the seller ID of kayschwartz.  Theymay be contacted via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  




Home Articles/Reference ADMIRAL DEWEY’S LAMP