With the victory at Manila Bay, Olympia and Commodore Dewey became overnight sensations. This initial surge of patriotic enthusiasm continued unabated. At the end of the Spanish-American War, Olympia led a parade in New York Harbor, firing salutes from all of her guns. This was filmed by none other than Thomas Edison. The waterborne festivities were followed by parades throughout the city for which temporary triumphal arches of surprising complexity were built. This might have been the pinnacle of Olympia’s fame but the Navy knew a good public relations tool when they saw one.

Images of the ship and the battle appeared on the front page of newspapers from coast to coast. These were followed by magazine covers and, eventually, book covers. A cottage industry sprang up of items intended for parlors across the country. Clocks, lithographs, etchings, mirrors, and lamps all featured the ship. Her fame was boundless and lasted for years, helped along by a wide assortment of images of Olympia and Dewey that were used to sell everything from medicine to music boxes.

As a symbol for the burgeoning Navy, Olympia herself was decorated in high style. This was the heyday of bronze casting. The ship was fitted with a figurehead representing Nike, and a new name board, both surrounded with prodigious scrollwork. The turrets and spar deck received bronze decorations celebrating the ship’s exploits. For the rest of her commissioned life, Olympia would be a symbol of America’s emerging power even after being surpassed in speed, armor, and armament.

World War I would see her major decorations removed for display at Annapolis and her bright color scheme reduced to a drab grey, but she continued to be chosen for missions that required a symbol of emerging naval power. The last of these was the honor of bringing the Unknown Soldier home from France.

Newspaper cover from May 1898
Newspaper cover from May 1898
Program book for Dewey's reception in New York 1899
Program book for Dewey's reception in New York 1899
Select Dewey and OLYMPIA objects
Select Dewey and OLYMPIA objects
Music box advertisment using OLYMPIA and Dewey images
Music box advertisment using OLYMPIA and Dewey images
Paper model of OLYMPIA 1896
Paper model of OLYMPIA 1896
OLYMPIA in Boston Navy Yard - figurehead detail
OLYMPIA’s newly installed commemorative figurehead 1902