The underlying design that made up the American naval cruiser USS Baltimore (C-3) was actually British in origin. Nevertheless, construction and finalization work was handled by William Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia in American waters, producing a one-off hull that was intended as an improvement over the preceding USS Charleston (C-2) cruiser in every way. The vessel saw its keel laid down on May 5th, 1887 and she was launched to sea on October 6th, 1888. Commissioned on January 7th, 1890, the warship would contribute to United States Navy (USN) actions into the early 1920s before seeing formal decommissioning. Before the end of her sailing days, her hull was reclassified as "CM-1" following conversion to mine-layer.
As completed, USS Baltimore held a displacement of 4,485 tons (short) with a length measuring 336 feet, a beam of 48.5 feet, and a draught down to 20.5 feet. Onboard power was derived from 4 x Coal-fired boiler units feeding 2 x Horizontal triple-expansion engines developing 10,500 horsepower to 2 x Shafts. This gave the hull a straight-line ocean-going speed equal to 19 knots under ideal conditions.
Aboard was a crew of 386 including officers.
Armament was centered on a primary battery of 4 x 8" (203mm) /35 caliber Mark 4 series main guns set across four individual single-gunned emplacements found at the four corners of the ship. This was backed by a secondary battery of 6 x 6" (152mm) /30 caliber Mark 3 series guns set in six single-gunned emplacements overlooking the sides of the ship (three emplacements to a hull side). Beyond this were 4 x 6-pounder (57mm) guns, 2 x 3-pounder (47mm) guns, 2 x 1-pounder (37mm) gun, and 2 x 0.45 caliber Gatling guns. All told, the vessel was very well armed for its time.
Armor ranged from 4 inches at the main deck to 3 inches at the conning tower and as much as 4.5 inches at the gun shields.
The profile of the ship was conventional for the period, resulting in a twin-mast approach with twin inline funnels seated near midships. The bow was raised and tapered sharply while the stern was rounded out to a more elegant finish. The position of the guns over the sides of the hull like gave the vessel relatively good concentration-of-firepower against any one target at-range.
In 1890, the vessel was named the flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron and made stops across Europe and the Mediterranean before finding herself in Pacific waters in 1891 for evacuation of Americans from Chile. Decommissioned in February of 1896, she was reactivated to take part in the Spanish-American War (1898) and went on to neutralize the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay, Philippines.
From 1900 to 1903, she underwent a refit which saw her take on a revised main battery of 12 x 6" (152mm) Mark 7 guns over her original 8" types and 6 x 3" guns were added to the mix. Boilers were completely replaced with a more modern design by Babcock & Wilcox. After sometime training and sailing in Caribbean waters, the warship was sent to the Mediterranean before transiting near Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and Australia.
At home in 1907, she was placed out-of-commission and ended up in reserve status in January 1911. During 1913-1914, she was reworked to become a minelayer and brought back online on March 8th, 1915 and took part in actions concerning World War 1 (1914-1918) - laying hundreds of naval mines near Scotland, in the North Sea, and at the Orkney Islands. After the war in 1919, she was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and formally given the new designator of "CM-1" to better identify her mine-laying role. She operated in this fashion until set out-of-commission once more - this time in January of 1921.
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4 x 8" (203mm) /45 caliber Mark 4 main guns.
6 x 6" (152mm) /30 caliber Mark 3 secondary guns.
4 x 6-pounder (57mm) guns.
2 x 3-pounder (47mm) guns.
2 x 1-pounder (37mm) guns.
2 x 0.45 caliber Gatling guns.
12 x 6" (152mm) /40 Mark 7 guns replacing original 8" types.
6 x 3" (76mm) /50 caliber guns added.
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Image from the Public Domain; United States Navy historical.
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