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1868 DANCE CARD FOR AN OFFICER’S HOP ABOARD THE USS NEW HAMPSHIRE, NORFOLK, VIRGINIA:  A keepsake from a Victorian lady’s evening, this dance card was printed for the Officer’s Hop held on the Receiving Ship New Hampshire on April 24, 1868.  The bi-fold card stock is printed on the cover with the event title and date and the interior is printed with the programme of dances with spaces for the names of the men to whom she had promised that given dance.  

The USS New Hampshire was a 74-gun ship-of-the-line authorized by Congress on 29 April 1816, and was laid down by the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Maine, in June 1819, and was originally commissioned as the “Alabama”.  Although ready to be launched in 1825, she remained on the stocks for preservation; an economical measure that avoided the expense of manning and maintaining a ship of the line.  It wasn’t until 1864, well into the Civil War, that the ship was completed and she was launched.  With Alabama being part of the Confederacy, the ship was renamed the New Hampshire.  The age of iron clad ships powered by steam had eclipsed the effectiveness for such a ship of the line, and upon launching the New Hampshire was put to use as a hospital and supply ship off Port Royal, South Carolina.  After the war, she was moved to Norfolk, Virginia where she served as a receiving ship, and it was in this capacity that she hosted the hop detailed on this dance card.  

Receiving ships served several purposes, primarily as the billet for newly recruited sailors before they are assigned to a ship's crew.   Anchored in a large harbor, particularly in a large Navy Yard, the role of a receiving ship was an effective use of older hulled ships which were obsolete or were no longer seaworthy, but still able to remain afloat in still, protected waters.  These ships also served as hospital ships for Navy facilities without permanent hospitals ashore.   

The New Hampshire was moved to Newport, Rhode Island, as the flagship for the Apprentice Training Squadron, and in 1893 she was loaned to the New York State Naval Militia as a training ship and armory. Nearly one thousand men trained on her decks and went on to serve during the Spanish American War. 

When the Navy launched a new battleship that would carry the name New Hampshire in 1904, the name of the old ship was changed to Granite State. She was still serving as a training ship in 1918.  A series of fires eventually sunk the old ship at her pier on the Hudson in 1921 and the hull was sold for salvage.  The hull was refloated in 1922 and in the process of being towed to a scrapping yard, the towline parted in a storm, the ship caught fire once again, and she sank off Half Way Rock near Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts on 26 July, 107 years after her keel was laid. 

The card has survived in very nice condition with only a small tear on one edge that affects neither the integrity of the card nor the printing.  The cloth cord by which the card was pinned to the lady’s dress is still present.    

These early dance cards did not survive in great numbers, especially those related directly to a military social event.  This is a special collectable that would fit into many different collection interests.  (0407) $25



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