The Fight for the Soul of the U.S. Navy: Engineering the Officer Corps of the New Steel Navy, 1886-1916




Mathes, Dana L.

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During the naval arms race of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the United States undertook a remarkable technological modernization of its navy. The creation of New Steel Navy offers an opportunity to see how technology changed the identity of its officer corps. This research argues that the transformation came as the result of the interaction of three processes: 1) the Navy's internal social struggles, 2) the rise of engineering as an profession, and the 3) nation's need for icons which expressed the new identity which it desired for itself. The identity of the US naval officer was remade by these forces from one of a heroic swashbuckling seamen into that of a fighting engineer, capable of bringing the latest technology to bear against the nation's enemies.

The scholarship of the New Steel Navy has focused almost exclusively on its technical and strategic political aspects, and has usually applied an internal Navy perspective. This study investigates how the Amalgamation solution developed from both inside and outside the naval service and how the public debate and the engineering profession affected the outcome. This investigation utilizes both qualitative and quantitative information from the six-decade period of the Navy's modernization.


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Amalgamation, Engineering Education, Gilded Age, Naval Engineers, New Steel Navy, Progressive Era