USS Illinois (BB-7)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS Illinois.
USS Illinois BB-7.jpg
Illinois at anchor
Career (United States)
Name: USS Illinois
Namesake: State of Illinois
Ordered: 26 September 1896
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia
Laid down: 10 February 1897
Launched: 4 October 1898
Sponsored by: Nancy Leiter
Commissioned: 16 September 1901
Recommissioned: 2 November 1912
Decommissioned: 15 May 1920
Renamed: Prairie State, 8 January 1941
Struck: 26 March 1956
Identification: Hull symbol: BB-7
Fate: Sold for scrap on 18 May 1956
General characteristics [1][2]
Class and type: Illinois-class battleship
Displacement: 11,565 short tons (10,326 long tons; 10,492 t)
Length: 368 ft (112 m)
Beam: 72.3 ft (22.0 m)
Draft: 23.5 ft (7.2 m)
Installed power: 11,207 hp (8,357 kW)
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)
Complement: 660 officers and men
  • 4 × 13 in (330 mm)/35 cal Mark 1 guns
  • 14 × 6 in (152 mm)/40 cal guns
  • 2 × 3 in (76.2 mm)/23 cal AA guns
  • 16 × 6-pounders (57 mm or 2.24 in)
  • 6 × 1-pounders (37 mm or 1.46 in)
  • 4 × 18 in (457 mm) torpedo tubes (later removed)
  • Belt: 9.5 to 16.5 in (241 to 419 mm); 4 in (102 mm) (bow)
  • Bulkheads: 12 in (305 mm)
  • Turrets: 14 in (356 mm); 10 to 15 in (254 to 381 mm) (bases)
  • Deck: 4 in (102 mm) (aft)
  • Casemates: 6 in (152 mm)
  • Conning Tower: 10 in (254 mm)

USS Illinois (BB-7), the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the 21st state, was a battleship, the lead ship of her class.

Illinois was laid down on 10 February 1897 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 4 October 1898, sponsored by Miss Nancy Leiter, daughter of Chicago multi-millionaire Levi Leiter[3] and commissioned on 16 September 1901, Captain George A. Converse in command.

Pre-World War I[edit]

Illinois c.1901 after successful sea trial.

After shakedown and training in Chesapeake Bay, the new battleship sailed on 20 November 1901 for Algiers, Louisiana, where she was used to test a new floating dry dock. She returned to Newport News in January 1902, and from 15–28 February served as flagship for Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans during the reception for Prince Albert Wilhelm Heinrich of Prussia. Bearing the flag of Rear Admiral A.S. Crowninshield, the battleship departed New York City on 30 April and arrived at Naples on 18 May, where the Admiral took command of the European Squadron. Illinois carried out training and ceremonial duties until 14 July, when she grounded in the harbor of Kristiania, Norway and had to return to England for repairs. She remained at Chatham Dockyard until 1 September, then proceeded to the Mediterranean and South Atlantic for fleet maneuvers.

Illinois, 1901–1907

Illinois was detached from the European Squadron on 10 January 1903 and assigned to the North Atlantic. In 1906, under the Command of Captain Blocklinger, Illinois was the first ship to win the famous Prince Louis Battenberg Cup. She engaged in fleet maneuvers, gunnery and seamanship training, and ceremonial operations until December 1907, when she joined the "Great White Fleet" for the cruise around the world. Following a Presidential review, the mighty battleships sailed from Hampton Roads on their important voyage. The Atlantic Fleet joined the Pacific Fleet on 8 May 1908 in San Francisco Bay, and after a review by the Secretary of the Navy, the combined fleets continued their cruise. The ships visited Australia, Japan, Ceylon, and other countries, arriving at Suez on 3 January 1909. At Suez, word of the 1908 Messina earthquake sent Illinois, Connecticut, and Culgoa to Messina. After rendering valuable aid to victims of the disaster, the ships rejoined the fleet, returning to Hampton Roads on 22 February. President Theodore Roosevelt reviewed the fleet as it arrived, having given the world a graphic demonstration of America's naval might. Illinois decommissioned at Boston, Massachusetts on 4 August. Illinois underwent a major modernization, receiving new "cage" masts and more modern equipment.

Illinois c.1919

World War I[edit]

The battleship was placed in reserve commission on 15 April 1912 and recommissioned on 2 November, in time to take part in winter fleet exercises and battle maneuvers with the Atlantic Fleet. In the summers of 1913–1914, Illinois made training cruises to Europe with midshipmen. In 1919, the ship was again laid up at Philadelphia Navy Yard until she was loaned to the State of New York on 23 October 1921 for use by the Naval Militia. Illinois was given the hull number BB-7 in July 1920.

Prairie State c 1940s or 1950s.

Inter-war period and beyond[edit]

Excluded from further use as a warship by the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, Illinois was fitted out as a floating armory at New York Navy Yard in 1924 and was assigned to the New York Naval Militia. She remained there for more than 30 years, though reclassified IX-15 on 8 January 1941 and renamed Prairie State to allow her name to be assigned to a projected new battleship, USS Illinois (BB-65). During World War II, she served as a Naval Reserve Midshipmen Training School at New York. Following the war, she was retained on loan to the State as quarters for a Naval Reserve unit until 31 December 1956.

Prairie State, after over 50 years of useful service to the Navy and the Nation, was towed to Baltimore, Maryland, and sold for scrap to Bethlehem Steel Company on 18 May 1956.

Silver Service[edit]

On 17 November 1901, Illinois was presented with a silver service dining set provided by the state of Illinois and presented by Senator William E. Mason. It consisted of a large and small punch bowl, two candelabra, an ornamented fruit dish, a small fruit dish, two epicurean dishes, a large centerpiece and a ladle. Each item featured engravings of the crest of Illinois and an ear of corn.[4] It was a tradition for states to provide a silver service to ships named after them. The silver was purchased by the state of Illinois after Illinois was decommissioned. It is stored in the breakfront in the state dining room of the Illinois Executive Mansion.[5]



  1. ^ DANFS Illinois (BB-7).
  2. ^ Chesneau, Koleśnik & Campbell 1979, p. 142.
  3. ^ "She is Back From India." Newark Daily Advocate Newark, Ohio. Wednesday, 19 September 1900. Page 3.
  4. ^ The New York Times 17 November 1901.
  5. ^ State of Illinois. Executive Mansion tour. State Dining Room.


Further reading[edit]

  • Alden, John D. (1989). American Steel Navy: A Photographic History of the U.S. Navy from the Introduction of the Steel Hull in 1883 to the Cruise of the Great White Fleet. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-248-6. 
  • Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Battleships, An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-715-1. 
  • Reilly, John C.; Scheina, Robert L. (1980). American Battleships 1886–1923: Predreadnought Design and Construction. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-524-8. 
  • Taylor, Michael J.H. (1990). Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I. Studio. ISBN 1-85170-378-0. 

External links[edit]