July 7, 2022

Art & Lifestyle:

Navy Day Exhibit on Display at Museum

Navy Day
Ships anchored on the Hudson River north above New York City for the 1945 Navy Day at the victorious end of World War II. (US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo)

A new exhibit at the St. Clement’s Island Museum features Navy Day items and souvenirs from past Navy Day celebrations.

The public is encouraged to visit the museum and check out the unique artifacts on display courtesy of a local collector. The special exhibition will run through June 6, 2021.

The Navy League of New York originally proposed that the official observance of Navy Day be on October 27 in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday. Mr. Roosevelt was a naval enthusiast, promoter of sea power, and former assistant secretary of the Navy.

Although not a national holiday, Navy Day was designed to give public recognition to the naval service. In 1923 (Navy Day’s first year), over 50 major cities participated, and the US Navy sent several ships to various port cities for the occasion. Navy yards, depots, ships, and stations conducted open house events for the public. During World War II, Navy activities did not open for access by the public, but after the war ended, the 1945 Navy Day was a massive celebration, with President Harry S. Truman receiving the returning American fleet in New York Harbor.

Following the consolidation of the military services in the Department of Defense, Armed Forces Day was established in August 1949 to be celebrated on the third Saturday in May to honor Americans serving in each of the military branches. It was intended to replace the separate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Days.

Navy Day was last officially observed in 1949.

The temporary exhibit contains items from past Navy Days.

Most naval activities that the public could attend provided a printed brochure that usually contained a welcome from the commanding officer, a history of the activity, and a schedule of events. The brochures were commonly created within the activity. On smaller ships, that might result in a mimeographed single sheet folded as needed. On larger ships and shore activities, the brochure might look more like a glossy magazine.

“Giveaway” souvenirs of the visit were produced in the various shops of the industrial-type activities. Ashtrays and pin-trays were very popular as they could be stamped from small metal scraps, and unfortunately, very few early ones escaped the World War II scrap drives. Some shops that did castings created tiny anvils. Those with lathes turned out mini goblets, urns and bell-shaped paperweights. Miniature torpedoes came from some of the ordinance stations.

Several activities produced their own souvenir medals, key tags, and shop tags. Cocktail forks and bottle openers added to the list of shop-made souvenir items. There were other unusual items such as the small folder with the fragment of the quarter deck of the USS Missouri. Most of these mementos were embossed with self-identifying text including the activity name, the shop, were produced and the Navy Day event.

The museum is at 38370 Point Breeze Road in Colton’s Point.

For more information about the exhibit, call the museum at 301-769-2222.

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