The Maine and Spain Exploded Painfully In Vain, Or, Remembering the Maine at The Wolfsonian-FIU Library

As I prepared to teach my class last night,  America and Movies: Cuba and the United States, 1898-2016, I realized that I had almost forgotten that the date marked the anniversary of the sinking of the U.S. battleship, the Maine. The United States government had dispatched the ship to Havana during the protracted struggle between Spanish forces and those islanders fighting for Cuban independence.  The mysterious explosion of the warship in the harbor of Havana unleashed a barrage of accusations and counter-charges, triggered a diplomatic crisis, declarations of war between Spain and the United States, and a quick and decisive victory for American military and naval forces deployed in the Caribbean and Pacific. I am currently working on an exhibition dealing with U.S.-Cuban relations between 1919 and 1959 to open in early May, 2016. My colleague, Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn, is presently supervising two FIU undergraduate students as they create another installation, Cuba: From Gunboat Diplomacy to Good Neighbor Policy, scheduled to open later this month. Here is Rochelle’s report. 

One hundred and eighteen years ago yesterday, the USS Maine exploded in Cuba’s Havana harbor. She sank, dragging hundreds of Americans to their demise at the bottom of the sea. The United States, which had positioned this blustery example of its naval might at port to intimidate Spain, immediately narrowed its suspicious gaze on its rival.

June 201592906

Gift of the Monroe County Public Library, Key West, Fla.

While Spain attempted to quell Cuban uprisings against its imperial rule of the island, America established itself firmly as a player in Cuba’s wildly profitable sugar trade. Spain denied any wrongdoing over the sinking of the Maine and responded to the U.S. accusations by declaring war. The Spanish-American War of 1898 began with the American rallying cry of “Remember the Maine.” The Wolfsonian-FIU Library contains arresting images of the doomed battleship, as well as rousing illustrations of violent clashes between the military branches of Spain and the United States.


Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

This colorful plate, reproduced from a painting by Henry Reuterdahl, was printed in W. Nephew King’s turn-of-the-century imprint, The story of the Spanish-American War and the revolt in the Philippines.

This volume brings the human element to the forefront of the tragic event.


Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

Inside, the haunted faces of men peer out from the photographic plates.


Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

The historic event led to an epic recovery operations.


Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

This sheet music cover exemplified a prolific array of pro-war propaganda, readily played and sung by the masses.


Gift of Vicki Gold Levi

This comprehensive volume came out in 1898, proving the public’s immediate, unquenchable thirst for all information about the war.


Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

Renowned war correspondent Richard Harding Davis, quick to back President Theodore Roosevelt’s “gunboat diplomacy” policy in Cuba, wrote witty prose accompanied by caricature-like illustrations by the famous artist Frederic Remington for this 1898 book.


Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

An image of the enemy, accompanied by a few choice words by Davis:


Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

For more exciting views of the USS Maine and insight into the Spanish-American War of 1898, please visit the Wolfsonian-FIU Library. More examples from our collections will soon be showcased in our new library exhibit.

~ by "The Chief" on February 16, 2016.

One Response to “The Maine and Spain Exploded Painfully In Vain, Or, Remembering the Maine at The Wolfsonian-FIU Library”

  1. I knew Jack Dierks, author of Leap to Arms, about the Battle of Manila. I believe he still lives in Chicago. A great guy, and a terrific source of information on America’s first War played out on an international stage.

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