Skip to main content

The Navy Department Library

Related Content
Document Type
  • Manuscript
Wars & Conflicts
File Formats
  • Image (gif, jpg, tiff)
Location of Archival Materials

Lieutenant George Preston Blow, USN - Inventory of Collection




Overview of the Collection


Navy Department Library


George P. Blow


George P. Blow Collection


1889-1917 (inclusive)


1898-1899 (bulk)


1 Folder


This collection consists of letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, and typewritten notes made by Lieutenant Blow between 1889 and 1917. Lieutenant Blow survived the explosion of Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898 and the collection contains a letter written to his wife shortly thereafter describing his escape and assuring her of his safety. The collection also contains reports of work done on Spanish cruisers wrecked during the Battle of Santiago and a transcript of the court of inquiry into the abandonment of the ex-Spanish cruiser Infanta Maria Teresa.


The records are in English.


Biographical Note

George Preston Blow was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1860. He enrolled in the United States Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1881 and was one of the first Southerners allowed to matriculate after the Civil War.

After graduating with the rank of naval cadet in 1881, Blow, who was promoted to midshipman on 5 August 1882, served on Essex until 23 June 1883 when he was ordered to Pinta. He served as a member of the ship's crew during its controversial trip from Norfolk to Alaska around South America in 1883. He was promoted to ensign on 1 July 1883 and served on Pensacolafrom 1886 to 1888 in the Mediterranean under Captain George Dewey.

Ensign Blow was assigned to the newly commissioned, protected cruiser Charleston on 30 December 1889. In 1890, as aide to Admiral Brown, he was detailed to King Kalakaua of Hawaii during the king's visit to California and was later knighted by Queen Liliuokalani (Ensign Blow was not authorized by Congress to accept the honor until March 1897. The decoration was then forwarded to him by the Navy Department and was lost on the Maine - along with everything he owned onboard).

In 1893 he married Adele Matthiessen of LaSalle, Illinois.

Blow was promoted to lieutenant on 22 February 1894 and was assigned to Texas in 1895 and to Maine in 1896. He survived the explosion of the Maine in Havana Harbor on 15 February 1898. He was in command of Potomac which assisted in raisingInfanta Maria Teresa, and later commanded Vulcan , which attempted to tow the prize war ship to the United States.

During his naval career Blow also established the US Hydrographic Bureaus in Cleveland and Chicago and invented several naval devices including the depth-charge.

He resigned from the Navy in 1900 and served as president of the Western Clock Company, makers of Westclox (his wife's father owned the company), until his retirement in 1920. He died in Washington, DC, on 20 November 1922.

Scope and Contents

The bulk of this collection consists of letters, photographs, and newspaper clippings, reports, and transcripts concerning Lieutenant Blow's escape from the Maine and other activities related to his service during the Spanish-American War. Additional material includes a letter from Mr. Jacob H. Fesler written in 1889, typewritten notes on submarine warfare made by Blow in 1917, along with various letters he wrote at that time concerning the ideas in his notes.



The collection is unarranged.


Detailed Description of the Collection


Photographs including those showing: Midshipmen Blow; Lieutenant Blow; USS Maine entering Havana Harbor on 24 January 1898, damage to one of the Spanish cruisers, and the towing of the Infanta Maria Teresa.

Summary of Naval Service.

Letter from Mr. Jacob H. Fesler (Department of State International Marine Conference, Washington, DC) to Lieutenant Blow (Officer in Charge, US Branch Hydrographic Office, New York, NY) on 23 October 1889, commenting on pamphlet of General Information Gained in Interviews with Masters of Vessels By the Branch Hydrographic Offices of New York, Norfolk, Boston, San Francisco, and Baltimore.

Letters from Lieutenant Blow to his wife on his escape from the Maine, its dead and survivors, and assuring her of his safety, both dated 16 February 1898.

Newspaper clippings, sources and dates unknown; includes an article on Lieutenant Blow.

Typewritten notes made by Blow in February or March 1917 on submarine and antisubmarine warfare.

Letters to and from W. H. Stayton, Executive Secretary, Navy League, Washington, DC, regarding Blow's thoughts on antisubmarine warfare.

Reports of work on the wrecks of the Spanish cruisers Infanta Maria Teresa, Cristobal ColonOquendoVizcaya and Sandoval.

Transcript of the court of inquiry convened 22 November 1898 to inquire into the circumstances of the ex-Spanish cruiserInfanta Maria Teresa off Cuba on 1 November 1898. The testimony of Lieutenant Blow is on pages 47-49.


Related Collections


Fifteen additional photographs have been transferred
to the Photographic Section, Naval Historical Center.

Lt. George Blow, USS MAINE
The Spanish American War Centennial web site



Restrictions on Use

Manuscripts are unavailable for loan and must be consulted in the library. Photocopying of manuscripts is generally prohibited, though the use of digital cameras by researchers to reproduce non-copyrighted materials is permitted. Permission to photocopy a limited number of pages may be granted by the reference staff, contingent upon the physical state of items. All photocopying of materials shall be done by the reference staff, or under their close supervision. The use of personal scanners by non-library staff personnel must be approved by the reference staff on a document-by-document basis (Reference: Naval History and Heritage Command Instruction [NAVHISTCENTINST] 5070.1C.).


Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.


Personal name:

Blow, George P.



Sailors--History--19th Century

Spanish American War, 1898 -- Naval Operations


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Historical Manuscripts, Navy Department Library, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington DC, George P. Blow Collection.



Processing Information

The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Thomas Wildenberg in August 2006.

Published: Tue Jan 06 10:52:15 EST 2015