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Book Review
US Cruisers 1883-1908
The birth of the steel navy
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by: Mark R. Smith [ GUNNY ]

Originally published on:
Model Shipwrights

"Hailing in at #143 of Osprey Publishing’s "New Vanguard" series, comes this new release focusing upon the "New Navy" of 1880 in the U.S., and their mighty cruisers!"

What a dream come true...when I retrieved the manila envelope from my mailbox, I had no idea as to what awaited my eyes...ripping the tab off the envelope, and taking a peek inside, the first thing I saw was a full color image of USS Olympia, in all her glory........... (I really love these old girls, if you haven't guessed by now)


This is the143rd title in the Osprey "New Vanguard" series of publication, which focus on the design, development, operation, and history of the machines of war, used through time. This particular issue takes a closer look at the birth of the steel navy, when the Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago, on March 3, 1883, changed not only general warship construction, but also U.S. naval strategy itself.

From 1883, to 1904, 39 cruisers were authorized, which pushed the US steel industry, and the shipbuilding industry to move toward the development of a modern steel navy. This new publication from Osprey takes this era, and condenses it into 48 pages of vital information for not only the ship modeler studying this subject, but also the historian or naval enthusiast will benefit and learn from the pages within.


US Cruisers 1883–1904
The birth of the steel navy
(New Vanguard 143)

Author: Lawrence Burr
Illustrator: Ian Palmer, John White

US Price: $17.95
UK Price: £9.99
Canadian Price: $21.00
Release Date-June 2008
48 pages ttl.
34 B/W photos
6 full color photos
5 full color plates, 1 full color centerfold
ISBN: 9781846032677

> Introduction
> A Naval Renaissance
> Design and Construction
> The Ships
> Cruisers in Action
> Pointing the Guns
> USS Olympia
> Conclusion
> Select Bibliography
> Appendix
> Index

Chapter synopsis

Actually, this volume isn't really divided into chapters, but more so sections of various information, with unique subject matter to each one, respectively.

Section 1, the Introduction, and Naval Renaissance, touches upon the highlights of the early history of these mighty marvels, pointing out all pertinent dates in the timeline. Early classes of the cruiser are discussed as well, with the books first color plate shared, showing the side view of the USS Atlanta and Chicago in full color digital imagery.

Section 2, Design and Construction, discusses the early construction properties of the cruiser, the shipyards, and the men who designed and built them.

Next comes Section 3, The ships, which is actually divided up into 11 sub-categories covering each year, from 1883 to 1904, and the vessels built in each specific year. This section is rich in images, as each cruiser has been represented with at least one image, as well as an informative chart that lists the ships name, builder, and date launched, and date commissioned.

A full color centerfold of the USS Olympia is in these pages, done in cut-away style, digital imagery, to show and label all inner workings of the vessel...very cool, indeed!

Moving through the vessels in history, multiple images are shown, with informative, supporting text, as well as the second color plate, a full color plate of two later class cruisers, USS Olympia, and USS Tennessee. There is much valuable research information to be gleaned from this section.

Section 4, Cruisers in Action, discusses three major battles where the cruiser gained respect through history, The Spanish-American War, 1898, The battle of Manila Bay, and The battle of Santiago. Again, all key notes of interest are discussed, with dramatic battle details all along.

Pointing the Guns is the subject of Section 4, covering the cruiser gunnery in general, along with the men who operated them.

The last major section before we reach the final closings of the volume is dedicated solely to the USS Olympia, deservedly so, as this truly was (and still is!) one fine looking vessel...her complete history is discussed in length, and some very cool inside detail shots of various places around the ships interior and her rooms are included, as well...a very good read!

The book concludes with a final closing, a decent bibliography of selected readings and websites, and a very useful appendix containing full design specification charts for all of the early US cruisers, a very nice closing, for sure!

A little about the author...

Written by Lawrence Burr, who was a co-producer of the documentary, "Jutland-Clash of the Dreadnoughts". Lawrence took part in the expedition that surveyed the underwater wrecks of the battle cruisers. Currently residing on the Gulf Coast of Florida, he has had a long interest in naval history.

All in all, a most welcome bit of literature on one of my favorite reading (and modeling!) subjects, definitely worth the quid required to place it on your bookshelf...if you like this era of US cruisers, you need this book!

Highs: Fourty-eight pages jam-packed with quality, full color and black and white photos, and informative, supportive text throughout.
Lows: None!
Verdict: Overall, a very valuable point of reference for the ship modeler, researcher, or student interested in the steel navy cruiser era. Highly recommended from this modelers point of view!
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978 1 84603 267 7
  Suggested Retail: $17.95 USD
  Related Link: Official Osprey Website
  PUBLISHED: Jun 01, 2008
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Mark R. Smith (Gunny)

I have been building models of all sorts all of my life, concentrating mainly on the coolest one's when I was younger, but now I focus directly on all military subjects, from armor to warships. After years of counting rivets, I put away the calipers, dial indicators, and micrometers and now just ha...

Copyright ©2020 text by Mark R. Smith [ GUNNY ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Well, I just gotta get me one fo these. Surely will help with either my Olympia or Chicago build when it is time. Thanks for the peek!
JUN 04, 2008 - 12:19 AM
Most definitely will help, Jim...lotsa good images and info to be gained from this volume, mate!
JUN 04, 2008 - 04:03 AM
I received my copy a couple of days ago. Mark's review is very accurate and thoroughly professional. This going to be a VERY INDULGENT read!
JUN 27, 2008 - 01:51 AM
Thanks for informative review on this one. Locating info on the USS Tennessee/Memphis has been tough. Jeff
JUL 02, 2008 - 03:06 PM

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