Gilbert Smith Galbraith Notebook

November 21, 1894-February 28, 1896
Manuscript Collection #1172
Galbraith, Gilbert Smith
Physical description
0.25 Cubic Feet, 1 item , consisting of a journal
Preferred Citation
Gilbert Smith Galbraith Notebook (#1172), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

This collection contains a journal (November 21, 1894 – February 28, 1896) kept by Gilbert Smith Galbraith while he was serving as a U.S. Naval Cadet on board the USS Columbia. The USS Columbia was a Second Line Cruiser first commissioned on April 23, 1894, serving in the U.S. Navy until it was sold for scrap on January 23, 1922. Galbraith includes detailed technical descriptions of the ship and its components along with diagrams, blueprints, scale plans, maps, photographic prints, cyanotypes and various ephemera. Additionally, Galbraith records the ship's activities from November 21, 1894, to February 28, 1896.

Biographical/historical information

Gilbert Smith Galbraith was born in Struthers, Ohio, on April 18, 1872. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1894; he retired on August 18, 1922, with the rank of commander; he died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 23, 1931.

The USS Columbia was built by William Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The ship was completed on May 19, 1893, and commissioned on April 23, 1894, with Captain G.W. Sumner in command. The USS Columbia joined the North Atlantic Squadron on July 30, 1894, protecting American interests in the Caribbean until cruising to Kiel, Germany in January of 1895 to attend the dedication ceremony of the Kiel Canal. After the ceremony, the USS Columbia returned to the Atlantic coast of the United States where it operated until being placed in reserve at the Philadelphia Naval Yard on May 13, 1897.

The ship was recommissioned on March 15, 1898, for service in the Spanish-American War and again placed in reserve at the Philadelphia Naval Yard on March 31, 1899. It was then recommissioned for service as a receiving ship on August 31, 1902, and as Part of the Atlantic Training Squadron on November 9, 1903. It was placed on reserve at the Philadelphia Naval Yard on May 3, 1907, until being recommissioned as the flagship of the Submarine Flotilla between June 22, 1915, and April 19, 1917, and then as the flagship of the Squadron 5, Patrol Force until July of 1917. Upon leaving the Patrol Force, USS Columbia served as a convoy escort for the American Expeditionary Force in France until January 7, 1919. It then served as the flagship for the Squadron 2, Destroyer Force, of the Atlantic Fleet until being decommissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Yard on June 29, 1921.

USS Columbia was reclassified CA-16 and renamed Old Columbia, then sold for scrap on January 26, 1922.


"USS Columbia" Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved from

United States, Navy Department, Construction and Repair Bureau. Ships' Data U.S. Naval Vessels. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1920. Retrieved from httpss://

Scope and arrangement

A large part of Galbraith's journal is dedicated to describing the USS Columbia's technical specifications and detailed descriptions of a variety of components including the triple expansion steam engine, screw propellers, condensers, boilers, drainage and pumping systems, steering mechanism, passing rooms, coal bunkers, armament, shell rooms and magazines. Galbraith's descriptions are accompanied by diagrams, blueprints, illustrations, and photographic prints. Also included are descriptions of the ship's decks and rooms along with profile, plan and cross-section diagrams.

Beginning on page 95, Galbraith describes his time on board USS Columbia, starting on November 21, 1895, when the ship was docked in Kingston Harbor, Jamaica. Galbraith details a cruise to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba describing the local municipalities and the docking procedures. Galbraith then describes the ship's travels between ports along the North Atlantic Coast of the United States. He includes descriptions of routine tasks, inspections by commanding officers, and drills conducted with the North Atlantic Squadron. Galbraith also mentions the comings and goings of a number of other vessels he encountered during his travels, including the Sandy Hook lightship, Nantucket lightship, USS Raleigh, USS Minnesota, USS Minneapolis, USS Montgomery, USS Texas, USS Wilmington, USS Nashville, SS Paris, USS Bancroft, USS Monongahela, USS Amphitrite, SS New York, USS Maine, USS Dolphin, USS Jamestown, USS Cincinnati, USC&GS A.D. Bache, and the steamship J.W. Hawkins.

A chart of the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua with an index of plantations can be found on pages 164 and 165. Pages 166 to 171 contain photographs and an illustration of the USS Kearsarge before and after it wrecked, photographs of the ship's crew, and a chart of Roncador Bank where the ship wrecked are included in pages 166 to 171. Galbraith indicates that these materials were obtained while the USS Columbia was anchored at Colon, Panama in April 1895.

Also included in pages 175 to 206, are materials relating to the dedication of the Kiel Canal in Germany for which Galbraith was present. Opened on June 20, 1895, the canal connects the North Sea to the Baltic Sea. Galbraith includes photographic prints of the ships present at the dedication along with general specifications for each ship. Also included are German language programs and promotional materials for the dedication, a photograph of the dedication ceremony and the Kiel dockyard, diagrams and charts of the Kiel Canal and the town of Kiel, and a chart showing the anchorage of ships taking part in the dedication.

Administrative information
Custodial History

September 3, 2010, 1 item, 0.25 cubic feet; Notebook (21 November 1894 - 28 February 1896) compiled by Ohio-born naval cadet Gilbert Smith Galbraith, a member of the U. S. Naval Academy Class of 1894, while serving aboard the USS Columbia, including descriptions, diagrams, blueprints, scale plans, maps, photographic prints and cyanotypes, ephemera, etc. of the ship and its equipment; also including diary entries recording the movements of the ship, including accounts of a November 1894 cruise to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; of the wreck and stranding of the USS Kearsage; of the Columbia's participation in the opening of Germany's Kiel Canal in June 1895; also a map of the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua, etc. English and German language materials. Recd. 7/2/2010. Donor: Purchased from Carmen D. Valentino Rare Books and Manuscripts, Philadelphia, PA, with Special Manuscript Funds

Source of acquisition

Gift of Purchased from Carmen D. Valentino Rare Books and Manuscripts, Philadelphia, PA

Processing information

Encoded by Jonathan Dembo, September 03, 2010

Processed by Devin Urban May 26, 2016

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Container list
Box 1 This collection contains a journal (November 21, 1894 – February 28, 1896) kept by Gilbert Smith Galbraith while he was serving as a U.S. Naval Cadet on board the USS Columbia