THE BATTLESHIP ILLINOIS AT THE WORLD’S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION

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I’ve been asked several times about the ‘rumor’ that the battleship anchored at the fair was not really a U.S. warship. The state-of-the-art war machine was in fact not the actual navy battleship, even though it was identical in length, beam, design, gun placements and every other aspect above the waterline. Visitors to the fair could tour the ship, stroll around above decks, look at the weaponry and the various accoutrements and talk to navy crew on board.

So what was not real about the ship? Everything. It wasn’t a ship at all. It was a wood and concrete model made to the exact superficial specifications of the real battleship. Above decks it looked identical, but if one could see below decks and below the waterline, it was quite a different story. The ‘ship’ was built on pilings sunk into the lake bottom and everything below decks was very solid structural construction of heavy wood beams and concrete to support the superstructure and the constant flow of visitors touring the ship.

Considering so much of the fair was state of the art it only makes sense that this model was so well built that millions of visitors had no idea they were looking at or walking on the deck of a solid structure rather than a floating one.

Why the U.S. Navy did not anchor a war ship at the fairgrounds for visitors to tour is odd, especially since the world’s navies were a big part of the fair and the massive naval celebration in New York, as well.

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