Nowdays whenever I go somewhere and see something old, I find myself comparing it to a Gearhart Knitting Machine of the same era. I guess that’s one of the side-effects of transporting yourself back in time to research these machines and your ancestors.
While in Houston on business, I did manage to stop by and visit the USS Texas Battleship. Here we are in the year 1914. She’s quite a site painted flat black! In fact, the Gearhart Knitting Machine was also painted flat back in 1914. So I guess these two artifacts, along with flat black Ford, must represent the favorite color of 1914.
The USS Texas is the only surviving dreadnought class battleship. She participated honorably in both World War I and the Second World War and is still considered one of the most powerful warship still afloat because of her ten 14″/45 guns in five twin turrets.
She looks like a 1914 version of today’s B2 stealth bomber. She’s big, heavy, powerful, and in a eye-catching way very graceful with her reverse-curve bow and tumble-home (flaired out sides). I would have loved to have seen her underway, but alas, she will no doubt spend the rest of her life tied up. One thing I couldn’t help but notice as I climbed around, was the apparent state of neglect. The exposed metal was painted, but the wooden deck was bare and rotting in many spots. If you opened the hatches and looked in, you’d see gear and equipment left as it must have been in 1946 when she was decommissioned. Fast forward 60 years, and the material on the chairs is now hanging off, with piles of dust on the floor. Everything not painted is rusty and equipment is scattered about in a mess.
I think it would take a shipyard effort to stabilize this vessel. Most of the interior and the bridge are closed due to rust, according to the lone worker I ran across. So, the massive steam engine was off-limits to the public. There was a gift shop onboard, but it was pretty awful. It was quite an embarrasment compared to the stature of the ship, and shouldn’t even be there at all. To be fair to the staff, the USS Texas was built in 1914, so this is probably about the oldest steel warship still afloat. I suspect if she were docked in a prominent spot, like the USS Wisconsin in downtown Norfolk, things would be much different.
Nevertheless, if you ever get to Houston and have an interest in heavy machinery, this battleship would be a great visit. Don’t forget to look behind the doors to discover some unrestored areas. I couldn’t help but daydream about what life must have been like aboard a WWI dreadnaught.