Well, I've been holding this for over a year, maybe even longer, but here they are finally: in my humble opinion, most handsome armored cruiser-class ever built, the Pennsylvania-class ACRs:
The Keystone State Cruiser USS Pennsylvania
, the class leader, as of 1905. She carries her full complement of ships' boats, as well as an extra, seventh 30" search light atop her pilot house:
The Mountain State Cruiser USS West Virginia
(ACR-5) is next, showing her outfit as a fleet-flagship, US Asiatic Fleet (Formerly 4th Cruiser Division, Atlantic Fleet), flying the (temporary) four-star flag of Acting Adm. Willard H. Brownson, 1905-07. Besides the obvious differences that she shared with the California
and South Dakota
, with regards to her sisters, Pennsylvania
, she now sports a prominent aft flying bridge with a "cabin" at the aft end. The "cabin" was a combined admiral's plotting-chart house and radio station, and she has four Marconi transmitters on either tip of her fore- and aft bridge wings.
The Golden State Cruiser, USS California
(ACR-7), appropriately enough, for a ship named after the gold nugget paradise of the 1800s, sported one of the most elaborate bow-scrolls of any US cruiser. Perched on top of the impressive twirls and garlands sat a Golden eagle, attentively guarding the emblazon of the United States - also fittingly for a ship named after one of the most pro-union states. Here she is flying the two-star flag of RA Giles B. Harber, Commander Second Division, Pacific Fleet, shortly after commissioning, in March, 1908:
...and here's the Centennial State Cruiser USS Colorado
(ACR-7) as a close comparison of the differences between Babcock & Wilcox-equipped ships and Niclausse-boilered ones... a few significant differences can be noted between the Colorado
, such as the position of her forward top cowlings and, most obviously in her boat complement.
The Free State Cruiser, USS Maryland
(ACR-8) was unique among the Big Ten in not having the shield with the Stars and Stripes as part of her bow scroll. Instead she displayed proudly her home state's coat of arms. Other than that she was very similar to the WeVee
, except not shipping the "coach" on her aft bridge.
The last of the class, the USS South Dakota
- "SoDak" (ACR-9) was not completed till 1908, well after the first battlecruiser HMS Invincible
had been completed by the British navy. Thus, upon entering service she was thoroughly obsolete and hopelessly outclassed by the new big "cats" being built in Britain and Germany. Nonetheless the "SoDak" was an exceedingly fine and well-liked ship, which gave sterling service to the USN. Unlike her sisters, The Mount Rushmore State Cruiser carried no fewer than eight 36" searchlights. (Her sisters shipped six 30", except the Keystone State vessel that was commissioned with seven.)