Library of Congress

Early Motion Pictures

Item 1 of 1

Launch of Japanese man-of-war "Chitosa" [i.e., "Chitose"]

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United States : Thomas A. Edison, Inc., 1898.


16427 U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright: Thomas A. Edison; 10Mar1898; 16427.

Duration: 0:52 at 15 fps.

Photographed: January 22, 1898. Location: Union Iron Works Shipyard, San Francisco.

This film shows the launching of the Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser Chitose at the Union Iron Works Shipyard, San Francisco, on Saturday, January 22, 1898. The camera view is east, across a small inlet of Central Basin, to Slipway #1. Four additional slipways lay beyond to the west. The inlet and slipway remain today, now covered with chunks of abandoned piers, adjacent to the Southwest Marine Shipyard. The camera viewpoint is today called pier 68, part of Southwest Marine's facilities. The San Francisco Chronicle's article on the Chitose's launch notes that "an Edison automatoscope caught the fleeting cruiser in a series of moving pictures which are to be sent to Japan for the edification of the public there, the Home Government favoring the project." The Chitose was a 4,760-ton second class unarmored protected cruiser used in naval support and supply operations. Her construction was supervised in San Francisco by Captain S. Sakurai of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The cruiser was 405 feet long, had a maximum speed of 22.3 knots, and was armed with several small guns (six 2.5-pounder, twelve 12-pounder, ten 4.7", two 8") and 14 torpedo tubes. She probably served as support during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Her last known entry in Jane's Fighting Ships (1925) lists her as obsolete class of cruiser. The launch took place at 10:25am before a crowd of 200 distinguished guests and over 1,000 members of the public, as well as many shipworkers. Numerous workers can be seen dangling from the framework of the assembly shed [17388], and a large crowd watches from a grandstand at the rear. Men and boys watch from small boats in the foreground and two boys jump into the water fully clothed near the end of the film [17653]. The unfinished hull received its superstructure over the following year. The ship sailed for Yokohama on March 21, 1899. Miss May Budd, niece of California governor James Budd, christened the ship with a bottle of California wine. Miss Gladys Sullivan, niece of San Francisco mayor James Phelan, pressed the button that sent the ship down the slipway. Following a Japanese custom symbolizing the peace-keeping role of a warship, 100 doves were released at the same moment. Bands played and Japanese fireworks were set off as the Chitose slid into the bay. United States Army and Navy officials, state and city officials, and the consular corps attended the launching. Japanese Consul General Segawa explained in a speech at the following luncheon that Chitose meant "a thousand years of peace" in Japanese, and hoped that the ship would fulfill that wish. The launching came at a time of excellent American-Japanese relations, although Japan was undertaking an unprecedented military buildup. The storm clouds of conflict between America and Japan lay several decades in the future. The Union Iron Works, founded in 1849 by Peter Donahue, moved to its bayside location, northeast of Potrero Hill, in 1883. Under the Scott Brothers it moved from machinery to shipbuilding, becoming the largest shipbuilding plant on the Pacific Coast. Several United States battleships were built at the yards in the 1890s, but the plant was in decline when it was bought by Bethlehem Steel in 1906. Under the auspices of the Port of San Francisco, Todd Shipyards of Oakland ran the facility in the 1980s, followed by Southwest Marine in the 1990s.

Received: 3/10/1898; paper pos; copyright deposit Paper Print Collection.

Ships--Launching--California--San Francisco.
Piers--California-- San Francisco.
San Francisco (Calif.)

Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
Paper Print Collection (Library of Congress) DLC

1 roll (58 ft) : si., b&w ; 35 mm. paper pos.

LC 1085 (paper pos)