Originally named Nebraska, the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania was commissioned in March 1905. Following her initial duty off the east coast of the United States, she departed in 1906-1907 to the Asiatic Station and operated off the coasts of Chile and Peru in 1910. Upon returning to the United States, she was modified with a wooden landing platform on her aft for aviation tests. On January 18, 1911, Eugene Ely landed his Curtiss biplane on board Pennsylvania while she lay at anchor off Hunter's Point, California. This landing was the first time an airplane had been set down on a warship's deck.
The armored cruiser was renamed Pittsburgh in August 1912 in order to make the name Pennsylvania available for Battleship #38. Between 1911 and 1913, she received a cage mast on her foremast at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Washington. Following this modification, she patrolled the waters off Mexico during the Intervention at Vera Cruz in April-May 1914. Upon United States' entry into World War I, Pittsburgh served as a squadron flagship to armored cruisers that patrolled off South America in both the Atlantic and Pacific. On July 23, 1917, an ordnance accident occurred onboard while en-route to Argentina. For his "extraordinary heroism" during this accident, Gunner's Mate Second Class Ora Graves was awarded the Medal of Honor. During the Spanish Flu, Pittsburgh greatly suffered and the majority of her crew became sick.
Following the war's conclusion, the armored cruiser departed for a two-year cruise to European waters. In mid-1920, the U.S. Navy implemented its hull numbering system, and Pittsburgh was designated CA-4. In 1922, she served as the flagship of Commander, U.S. Navy Forces in Europe for the next four years. Overhauled in 1926, she was ordered to the Far East to become the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. In early 1927, she landed Sailors and Marines to protect Americans and other foreigners in Shanghai during civil war in China. Arriving back in the United States in June 1931, Pittsburgh was decommissioned a month later and sold for scrapping that December.
A model of Pennsylvania is on display in the Great White Fleet exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, Building. 76.
Image: NH 101229-KN: USS Pennsylvania (Armored Cruiser #4), 1905-1908. Hand-tinted post card. NHHC Photograph Collection.