George Albert Converse Papers and Photographs, 1861-1897, DeGolyer Library

About the Collection

Overview

[Cushing's experiments with torpedoes], ca. 1890

The George Albert Converse Papers and Photographs, 1861-1897 digital collection contains hundreds of documents and photographs that comprise the physical collection held by SMU's DeGolyer Library.

DeGolyer Library digital collections are part of CUL Digital Collections, which contain thousands of digitized photographs, manuscripts, imprints, and works of art held by SMU's Central University Libraries special collections.  

About George Converse

George Albert Converse (1844-1909) was an officer in the U.S. Navy who is remembered for his contributions to naval engineering; he was a known expert on ordnance especially torpedoes. He was a pioneer in the use of electricity on men-of-war, experimentation with smokeless powder in the Navy and the development of torpedo boats. Converse was born in Norwich, Vermont, May 13, 1844, the son of Shubael and Luvia Morrill Converse. From 1858-1861, he attended Norwich University, where he obtained a B.S. degree in 1863. He was appointed midshipman November 29, 1861 and attended the United States Naval Academy, graduating first in his class in 1865. Commissioned an ensign on December 1, 1866, he advanced through the ranks to rear admiral, effective November 8, 1904. Converse married Laura Shelby on December 9, 1871, and they had four daughters.

In 1865-1869 Converse was posted to the European squadron and served on two steam sloops, the Canandaigua and Frolic, before serving a brief period with the Bureau of Navigation in 1869. He was then posted to torpedo duty until 1872, when he was assigned to the staff of Rear Admiral Thorton A. Jenkins, commander of the Asiatic Fleet. From 1875 to 1878, Converse instructed at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I., and until 1879 was an executive officer of the USS Marion. In 1883-1884 he served aboard the USS Lancaster under Rear Adm. Charles H. Baldwin. Converse then transferred to the Naval Bureau of Ordnance, returning as an instructor to the Naval Torpedo Station in 1885.

[Letter to George Converse from John Brown Herreshoff], 1896Converse was an inspector of torpedo boats at Bristol, R.I., (1889-1890), Commander of the USS Enterprise (1890-1891), and assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance (1891-1892). During the Spanish American War, he commanded the USS Montgomery with Admiral William T. Sampson’s squadron off Cuba. Converse was then detailed to the Bureau of Navigation, 1899-1901. He also served on a number of naval boards during this time. From 1901-1903, Converse commanded the battleship USS Illinois. He was then transferred to the naval department, successively serving as chief of the following bureaus: equipment, ordnance, and navigation, until his retirement in 1907. Converse died in Washington, D.C. on March 29, 1909 and is buried in National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

Sources:
The Cyclopedia of American Biography. Volume 36, page 293. Michigan: University Microfilms, 1967.
George Albert Converse, Rear Admiral, United States Navy. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/gaconverse.htm
"Real Admiral George A. Converse." New York Times, 30 March 1909.

About the Physical Collection

George Albert Converse (1844-1909) was a naval officer whose papers include correspondence, naval orders, ship specifications, contracts, reports, notebooks, newspaper and periodical clippings, pamphlets, etc. relating chiefly to the development of torpedo boats in the United States and Europe. Most of the papers cover the period 1888-1897 and were written in Newport, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., and England. Converse is known for his contributions to naval engineering, especially the development of torpedo boats. Also included are photographs of various ships, construction of ships and other related views. There are also views of ruins of a gun cotton factory after an explosion, "Cushing's" experiments with torpedoes, Yarrow & Co. torpedo boats, and steam yachts. Some photographs are by Frank H. Child and some by Child & Co.

Holdings and Highlights

[War-Nose, Whitehead Torpedo], ca. 1894The digital collection contains most of the items within the physical collection. For more information on how the physical collection is arranged, please view the finding aid.

The George Albert Converse collection came in as one unit with manuscripts and photographs. The manuscripts, clippings and pamphlets in Series 1 relate to Converse's naval career and work in experiments with torpedo boats. Series 2 consists of photographs of various torpedo boats and their construction and miscellaneous printed material.

The structure of the digital collection, which is identical to the physical collection, is organized into 2 series:

Series 1: Manuscripts
This series consists of Naval orders, Navy correspondence, letters, reports, and pamphlets related to ships and torpedoes, blueprints and periodicals from Converse’s Naval career.

Highlights includeSea-going Torpedo Boat constructed at ''La Seyne'' for the Russian Government. Engine Power, 512 I. HP.:

Series 2: Photographs and Printed Material

Choutfa, [Miranda' type.], ca. 1877-1878, a torpedo boat built for services on the Neva River, which was transferred by rail to the Black Sea and then converted into a torpedo boat that was used extensively during the the Turko-Russian War, 1877-1878

Digital Collections Guidelines and Procedures

Items in Central University Library Digital Collections are digitized following the SMU Central University Libraries Digitization Guidelines and Procedures. Digital collections are created under the guidelines of the SMU CONTENTdm Guide: Framework for Building a Collection, or through specialized metadata profiles tailored for the collection.

Usage

Diagram of Controller for Turret Turning Motors, U.S. Monitor Wyoming, 1902

Copyright usage terms vary throughout the collection. Each item contains information about usage terms. If SMU does not have the right to publish the item on the Internet, only the item's metadata will be available and the digitized object will be available on a restricted access basis. Such items may only be viewed on campus. When items are available for use, please cite DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University. A high-quality version of these files may be obtained for a fee by contacting degolyer@smu.edu.

Contact Info

For more information about the collection, please contact degolyer@smu.edu.