On this day in 1930 nearly 25,000 people gathered along the Vallejo waterfront, gazing across the Mare Island Channel to witness the launching of the heavy cruiser USS Chicago. Meanwhile, at the Mare Island Navy Yard, another 2,000 specially invited guests got a closer view of the launching as Miss Elizabeth Britten christened the ship, sending her down the ways into the channel at precisely 11:05 a.m. Miss Britten was the sister of Illinois Congressman Fred Britten, chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee. Since it was Prohibition, the huge ship was christened with a bottle of cider.
USS Chicago was the first of two heavy cruisers built at Mare Island. The second, USS San Francisco, would be launched three years later. Although the ship was named after the Windy City, officials from San Francisco also took a proud role in this important Bay Area launching. San Francisco Mayor James Rolph nearly upstaged the official ceremony with his arrival at Mare Island. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Rolph “made a spectacular but brief visit here for the launching. He arrived by airplane just in time to join the party of distinguished guests on the platform before the Chicago left the ways, and sped away again as soon as the ceremonies were over.”
Photographs and other information about USS Chicago can be found at http://www.navsource.org/archives/04/029/04029.htm.