Piece of wood found at garage sale was part of the sunken USS Maine

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For 20 years, a wood artifact sat in a New Jersey museum. Now, historians have confirmed it was part of the USS Maine in 1898 and are working to preserve it.

. No one remembered the name of the person who had gifted it. Most at the museum doubted it was even authentic.

How the heavy cruiser was destroyed remains a mystery. The USS Maine arrived in Havana Harbor in January 1898 to protect American interests during the Cuban war for independence from Spain. What happened the night of Feb. 15 is still debated. Historians and researchers differ on whether it was a Spanish mine or a fire in the vessel’s coal bunker that caused the massive explosion.

Whitaker soon determined that the mast’s wood and iron fittings matched the materials used to construct the armored battleship at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1889. He consulted records and plans in the archives of the New York Public Library to confirm his suspicions. He then examined paint flecks on the artifact. The USS Maine was originally painted white, then repainted tan and finally covered in black paint.

Evidence in hand, Ganier and Whitaker went back to the Pascak Historical Society. Beuscher was elated by the news. Then, she realized she had a decision to make.


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