Note Projects American Naval Strength
By Fred Reed
The hero of San Juan
Hill in the Spanish American War was also a
visionary naval historian, whose legacy includes
the descriptive "Battleship Note." It features a
large U.S. battle wagon warship on its back.
Even as a boy, young Teddy Roosevelt was
fascinated by the sea. His uncle had been a
Confederate admiral. T.R. wrote a serious
historical volume on The Naval War of 1812,
which was a standard for many years. Eventually
President William McKinley tapped T.R. to be
Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897, in
which post he flourished if but briefly.
At the Navy Department, Roosevelt was an
advocate of modernization. He took the lead in
preparing our sea forces for what he viewed as
an inevitable clash with Spain. With the
outbreak of hostilities following the explosion
of the battleship Maine in Cuban waters, he
resigned his civilian post and organized a
volunteer cavalry regiment, the famous Rough
Returning home from the war as a hero, T.R.
became governor of New York, vice president, and
then in 1901 president of the United States
after the assassination of McKinley. As
president, Roosevelt greatly increased naval
tonnage, including commissioning of a new
battleship, the Maine, on Dec. 29, 1902.
Other battleships followed in rapid succession:
the Missouri in 1903; the Ohio in 1904; the
Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, Rhode
Island, Virginia, and Georgia in 1906; the
Kansas, Minnesota, Vermont and Nebraska in 1907.
Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet" sailed around
the globe for 14 months in 1907-1909 projecting
America's growing sea power, and demonstrating
T.R.'s foreign policy of speaking softly "but
wielding a big stick." Included in this armada
were four battleship squadrons and escorts
painted white to impress the world with
America's new importance in global affairs.
Roosevelt especially wanted to project American
power in the Pacific Theater, where the empire
of Japan was a growing competitor. One of the
final acts of his administration was to welcome
the fleet home from its triumphal tour at
Hampton Roads, Va. on Feb. 22, 1909, timed to
coincide with Washington's birthday.
Roosevelt was also a proponent of building the
Panama Canal, not only for its commercial
importance to our nation, but also as a
strategic artery to implement his "two ocean"
navy to guard American interests in the Pacific
as well as the Atlantic.
Other battle wagons followed. On Sept. 11, 1911,
the keel was laid down for the USS New York (BB
34), which is the particular ship engraved on
the backs of large-size $2 Federal Reserve Bank
Notes like the Fr. 750 shown. On Oct. 30, 1912,
the USS New York was launched, and first
commissioned on April 15, 1914.
When conflict broke out only 15 weeks later in
Europe at the beginning of World War I, the
Allies were glad for the strong reach of
American naval power, which could keep open sea
lanes for movement of troops and the resupply of
The United States entered the conflict directly
in 1917, and an armistice ended hostilities on
Nov. 11, 1918. In the interim Congress had
created the Federal Reserve System as its fiscal
Although privately owned by member banks,
Federal Reserve Banks were authorized to issue
paper money under provisions of the Federal
Reserve Act of Dec. 23, 1913. Obligations on
these notes are similar to those on National
FRBNs were issued in small denominations, $1,
$2, $5, $10, $20 and $50. Two issues were
circulated, Series 1915 and Series 1918. Deuces
were issued by all 12 Federal Reserve Banks.
Total $2 notes issued were 67.6 million. All
have blue seals and serial numbers.
All FRBNs bear portraits of U.S. presidents on
face and patriotic demonstrations of American
commerce, industry, and history on back.
This is especially true of the "Battleship
Note," which deploys C.M. Chalmers' engraving of
the battleship New York steaming left to right
(west to east). It is said this served a
propaganda purpose of warning European despots
that America was ready to return and defend
freedom in Europe if it were jeopardized ever