Why Was There a Full-Size Battleship in NYC in 1917?

In 1917, the U.S. Navy came up with a creative idea to boost military recruitment:  They would build a full-sized battleship with a working crew right in the heart of New York City!  That's right, starting in early 1917, the Navy began building this amazing ship in the middle of Union Square, and it wasn't just something for people to notice from afar:  it had a full, working crew who went about the daily routines that all sailors would encounter in the Navy.  The following photos capture the entire spectacle - and yes, it did work!  25,000 new recruits came in through the doors.  

 

recruitment, USS Recruit, old new york photos
1917
New York, New York

Construction begins on the USS Recruit in the middle of Union Square.  It created quite a buzz!

recruitment, USS Recruit, old new york photos
1917
New York, New York

Here you see the ship coming to life.  It attracted a never-ending crowd of spectators. 

 

recruitment, USS Recruit, old new york photos
1917
New York, New York

Prior to completion, the ship was painted in the popular "dazzle" style that was being used in England.  It would later be re-painted with a more standard coloring.

recruitment, USS Recruit, old new york photos
1917
New York, New York

Here you see the ship almost completed.  And the crowds began to swell!

 

recruitment, USS Recruit, old new york photos
1917
New York, New York

The USS Recruit now in full operation.  Notice the crew members on deck, taking care of their duties. 

recruitment, USS Recruit, old new york photos
1917
New York, New York

The sailors onboard went about the duties any sailor would, which always gave spectators something to watch.  It was early-day performance art in a way!

 

recruitment, USS Recruit, old new york photos
1917
New York, New York

Every morning at 6 a.m, the sailors would emerge for wash duty, just as they would in the Navy. 

 

recruitment, USS Recruit, old new york photos
1917
New York, New York

They all took their duties seriously, as they were actual trainees and this was part of their training before they themselves were fully enlisted. 

 

recruitment, USS Recruit, old new york photos
1917
New York, New York

Local celebrities made a point to stop by as often as possible, as you see here with a popular actress giving her salute to the nation!