U.S.S. Chicago (1885)

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U.S.S. Chicago (1885)
Hull Number: CL-14, IX-5
Builder: John Roach[1]
Ordered: Act of 3 March, 1883[2]
Laid down: 29 December, 1883[3]
Launched: 5 December, 1885[4]
Commissioned: 17 April, 1889[5]
Decommissioned: 30 September, 1923[6]
Sold: 15 May, 1936
Fate: Foundered July 1936
U.S.S. Chicago was a protected cruiser completed for the U.S. Navy in 1889.


This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

One of the four "ABCD" ships that marked the beginning of the modern U.S. Navy. Chicago was launched 5 December, 1885 by John Roach & Sons, of Chester, Pennsylvania, sponsored by Miss E. Cleborne. Politically-motivated charges of corruption in the contracting all four of the new warships to John Roach led to the firm's bankruptcy delaying completion severely.[7] Although two of the other "ABCD" ships, Atlanta and Boston, were completed at New York Navy Yard, Chicago was ultimately completed by the successor firm to John Roach, Delaware River Iron Ship Building and Engine Works.[8]


Chicago was commissioned on 17 April, 1889, Captain Henry B. Robeson in command.

On 7 December, 1889, Chicago departed Boston for Lisbon, arriving on 21 December. The cruiser served in European and Mediterranean waters as the flagship of the Squadron of Evolution until 31 May, 1890 when she sailed from Funchal, Madeira, to call at Brazilian and West Indian ports before returning to New York 29 July.

Chicago operated along the east coasts of North and South America and in the Caribbean as flagship of the Squadron of Evolution and, later as flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron, until 1893. After taking part in the International Naval Review in Hampton Roads during April, she left New York 18 June, 1893 to cruise in European and Mediterranean waters as flagship of the European Station. Chicago collided with the merchant ship Azov at Antwerp on 11 July, 1894 and suffered slight damage.[9] She returned to New York on 20 March, 1895 and was placed out of commission there on 1 May.

From the summer of 1895 through the end of 1898 Chicago was in hand for modernization, thus missing service in the Spanish-American War. During this modernization her sailing rig was removed and replaced by steel military masts, new machinery was installed, and her obsolescent armament upgraded and simplified.

Recommissioned on 1 December 1898, Chicago made a short cruise in the Caribbean before sailing for the European Station 18 April. She returned to New York on 27 September and participated in the naval parade and Dewey celebration of 2 October, 1899. Chicago sailed from New York on 25 November for an extended cruise, during which she became flagship of the South Atlantic Station until early July 1901, then flagship of the European Station. With the squadron she cruised in northern European, Mediterranean, and Caribbean waters until 1 August, 1903 when she proceeded to Oyster Bay, N.Y., and took part in the Presidential Review.

Between 3 December, 1903 and 15 August, 1904 Chicago was out of commission at Boston undergoing repairs. After operating along the northeast coast, the cruiser departed Newport News on 17 November, 1904 for Valparaiso, Chile, arriving on 28 December. There, on 1 January, 1905 she relieved New York as flagship of the Pacific Station and for three years operated off the west coasts of North and South America, in the Caribbean, and to Hawaii.

On 8 January, 1908 Chicago departed San Diego for the east coast and in May joined the Naval Academy Practice Squadron for the summer cruise along the northeast coast until 27 August when she went into reserve. Chicago was recommissioned the next summer (14 May through 28 August 1909) to operate with the Practice Squadron along the east coast, then returned to Annapolis. On 4 January, 1910 she left the Academy for Boston, arriving 23 January. She then served in commission in reserve with the Massachusetts Naval Militia until 12 April, 1916 and with the Pennsylvania Naval Militia between 26 April, 1916 and April 1917.

On 6 April, 1917 Chicago was placed in full commission at Philadelphia and reported to Submarine Force, Atlantic, as flagship. On 10 July, 1919 she departed New York to join CruDiv 2, as flagship in the Pacific. She was reclassified CL-14 in 1921. From December 1919 until September 1923, she served with SubDiv 14 and as tender at the Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor.

Chicago was decommissioned at Pearl Harbor on 30 September, 1923. She remained in use by the fleet, serving as a barracks ship until 1935. She was renamed Alton 16 July, 1928 and reclassified IX-5. Sold for scrapping on 15 May, 1936, Alton foundered in mid-Pacific in July 1936 while being towed from Honolulu to San Francisco.


Dates of appointment are provided when known.


As Completed


  • four 8-inch/30 caliber
  • eight 6-inch/30 caliber
  • two 5-inch/30 caliber
  • two 6-pdr
  • two 1-pdr
  • four 47mm Hotchkiss revolving cannon
  • two Gatling guns



  • four 8-inch/35 caliber
  • fourteen 5-inch/40 caliber



  • eight 5-inch/40 caliber
  • six 4-inch/40 caliber

See Also


  1. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  2. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 150.
  3. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  4. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  5. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  6. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  7. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 19.
  8. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 150.
  9. Silverstone. The New Navy. p. 24.
  10. Register of Officers, 1890. p. 6.
  11. Register of Officers, 1892. p. 6.
  12. Register of Officers, 1895. p. 6.
  13. Register of Officers, 1899. p. 6.
  14. List and Station, July 1900. p. 5.
  15. Register of Officers, 1903. p. 8.
  16. Register of Officers, 1903. p. 8.
  17. Register of Officers, 1906. p. 12.
  18. Register of Officers, 1907. p. 12.
  19. Register of Officers, 1908. p. 12.
  20. Register of Officers, 1911. p. 36.
  21. Register of Officers, 1912. p. 36.
  22. Register of Officers, 1913. p. 24.
  23. Register of Officers, 1913. p. 24.
  24. Register of Officers, 1912. p. 36.
  25. Register of Officers, 1916. p. 20.
  26. Register of Officers, 1917. p. 24.
  27. Register of Officers, 1915. p. 24.
  28. Register of Officers, 1922. pp. 22-23.
  29. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  30. Silverstone. The New Navy. p. 24.
  31. Silverstone. The New Navy. p. 24.


  • Chesneau, Robert; Kolesnik, Eugene (editors) (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
  • Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (2006). The U.S. Navy Warship Series: The New Navy 1883-1922. New York: Routledge.

Protected Cruiser U.S.S. Chicago
<– Atlanta Class Minor Cruisers (US) U.S.S. Charleston –>