Ship naming and launching
The ceremonies involved in naming and launching naval ships are based in traditions thousands of years old.

Methods of launch

There are three principal methods of conveying a new ship from building site to water, only two of which are called "launching." The oldest, most familiar, and most widely used is the end-on launch, in which the vessel slides, usually stern
The stern is the rear or aft-most part of a ship or boat, technically defined as the area built up over the sternpost, extending upwards from the counter rail to the taffrail. The stern lies opposite of the bow, the foremost part of a ship. Originally, the term only referred to the aft port section...

 first, down an inclined slipway
A slipway, boat slip or just a slip, is a ramp on the shore by which ships or boats can be moved to and from the water. They are used for building and repairing ships and boats. They are also used for launching and retrieving small boats on trailers and flying boats on their undercarriage. The...

. The side launch, whereby the ship enters the water broadside, came into 19th-century use on inland waters, rivers, and lakes, and was more widely adopted during World War II. The third method is float-out
Float-out is the process in modern shipbuilding that follows the keel laying and precedes the fitting-out process. It is analogous to launching a ship, a specific process that has largely been discontinued in modern shipbuilding...

, used for ships that are built in basins or dry dock
Dry dock
A drydock is a narrow basin or vessel that can be flooded to allow a load to be floated in, then drained to allow that load to come to rest on a dry platform...

s and then floated by admitting water into the dock.


A Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

ian narrative dating from the 3rd millennium BC
3rd millennium BC
The 3rd millennium BC spans the Early to Middle Bronze Age.It represents a period of time in which imperialism, or the desire to conquer, grew to prominence, in the city states of the Middle East, but also throughout Eurasia, with Indo-European expansion to Anatolia, Europe and Central Asia. The...

 describes the completion of a ship:

Openings to the water I stopped;

I searched for cracks and the wanting parts I fixed:

Three sari of bitumen I poured over the outside;

To the gods I caused oxen to be sacrificed.

Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans called on their gods to protect seamen. The favor of the monarch of the seas — Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

 in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, the Roman
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

Neptune (mythology)
Neptune was the god of water and the sea in Roman mythology and religion. He is analogous with, but not identical to, the Greek god Poseidon. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Neptune was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto, each of them presiding over one of the three realms of the universe,...

 — was evoked. Ship launching participants in ancient Greece wreathed their heads with olive branches, drank wine to honor the gods, and poured water on the new vessel as a symbol of blessing. Shrines were carried on board Greek and Roman ships, and this practice extended into the Middle Ages. The shrine was usually placed at the quarterdeck, an area which continues to have special, ceremonial, significance.

Different peoples and cultures shaped the religious ceremonies surrounding a ship launching. Jews and Christians
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 customarily used wine and water as they called upon God to safeguard them at sea. Intercession of the saints and the blessing of the church were asked by Christians.

Ship launchings in the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 were accompanied by prayers to Allah
Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...

, the sacrifice of sheep, and appropriate feasting.

Chaplain Henry Teonge of Britain's Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 left an interesting account of a warship launch, a "briganteen of 23 oars," by the Knights of Malta
Knights Hospitaller
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

 in 1675:

Two fryers and an attendant went into the vessel, and kneeling down prayed halfe an houre, and layd their hands on every mast, and other places of the vessel, and sprinkled her all over with holy water. Then they came out and hoysted a pendent to signify she was a man of war; then at once thrust her into the water.

Early Modern Age

While the liturgical aspects of ship christenings, or baptisms, continued in Catholic countries, the Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 seems, for a time, to have put a stop to them in Protestant
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 Europe. By the 17th century, for example, English launchings were secular affairs. The christening party for the launch of the 64-gun ship-of-the-line Prince Royal
HMS Prince Royal (1610)
HMS Prince Royal was a 55-gun royal ship of the English Royal Navy, built by Phineas Pett I at Woolwich and launched in 1610. She was the first ship of the line with three complete gun decks, although when first completed the upper deck carried no guns in the waist, and was stepped down aft because...

in 1610 included the Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales is a title traditionally granted to the heir apparent to the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the 15 other independent Commonwealth realms...

 and famed naval constructor Phineas Pett
Phineas Pett
Phineas Pett was a shipwright and a member of the Pett dynasty.-Family background:Born at "Deptford Strond", he was the second son of Peter Pett of Deptford, his elder brother being named Joseph....

, who was master shipwright at the Woolwich yard. Pett described the proceedings:
The "standing cup" was a large cup fashioned of precious metal. When the ship began to slide down the ways, the presiding official took a ceremonial sip of wine from the cup, and poured the rest on the deck or over the bow. Usually the cup was thrown overboard and belonged to the lucky retriever. As navies grew larger and launchings more frequent, economy dictated that the costly cup be caught in a net for reuse at other launchings. Late in 17th century Britain, the standing-cup ceremony was replaced by the practice of breaking a bottle across the bow.

Country specific

Launching could be said to mark the birth of a vessel; and people throughout history have performed launching ceremonies, in part to appeal for good fortune and the safety of each new vessel.


French ship launchings and christenings in the 18th and early 19th centuries were accompanied by unique rites closely resembling marriage and baptismal ceremonies. A godfather for the new ship presented a godmother with a bouquet of flowers as both said the ship's name. No bottle was broken, but a priest pronounced the vessel named and blessed it with holy water.


In India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, ships have historically been launched with a Puja ceremony that dedicates the ship to a god, and seeks blessings for her and her sailors. Historically, Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 priests would perform the puja ceremony at launch. In the 20th century, ship are launched with a lady breaking a coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 on the bow of the vessel, which is sometimes followed by a small Puja.


Japanese ship launchings incorporate silver axes which are thought to bring good luck and scare away evil. Japanese shipbuilders traditionally order the crafting of a special axe for each new vessel; and after the launching ceremony, they present the axe to the vessel's owner as a commemorative gift. The axe is used to cut the rope which tethers the ship to the place where she was built.

United Kingdom

Sponsors of British warships were customarily members of the royal family, senior naval officers, or Admiralty officials. A few civilians were invited to sponsor Royal Navy ships during the nineteenth century, and women became sponsors for the first time. In 1875, a religious element was returned to naval christenings by Princess Alexandra
Alexandra of Denmark
Alexandra of Denmark was the wife of Edward VII of the United Kingdom...

, wife of the Prince of Wales
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910...

, when she introduced an Anglican choral service in the launching ceremony for battleship Alexandra
HMS Alexandra (1875)
HMS Alexandra was a central battery ironclad of the Victorian Royal Navy, whose seagoing career was from 1877 to 1900. She spent much of her career as a flagship, and took part in operations to deter Russian aggression against Turkey in 1878 and the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882.-Background:At...

. The usage continues with the singing of Psalm 107
Psalm 107
Psalm 107 is a psalm in the biblical book of Psalms. Written by King David, this psalm is a song of thanksgiving to God, who has been merciful to his people and gathered all who were lost. It is beloved of mariners due to its reference to ships and the sea Psalm 107 (Greek numbering: 106) is a...

 with its special meaning to mariners:

They that go down to the sea in ships;

That do business in great waters;

These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.

In 1969, the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

 incorrectly named the ocean liner RMS Queen Elizabeth 2
RMS Queen Elizabeth 2
Queen Elizabeth 2, often referred to simply as the QE2, is an ocean liner that was operated by Cunard from 1969 to 2008. Following her retirement from cruising, she is now owned by Istithmar...

 after herself, instead of the older liner RMS Queen Elizabeth
RMS Queen Elizabeth
RMS Queen Elizabeth was an ocean liner operated by the Cunard Line. Plying with her running mate Queen Mary as a luxury liner between Southampton, UK and New York City, USA via Cherbourg, France, she was also contracted for over twenty years to carry the Royal Mail as the second half of the two...

, by saying "I name this ship Queen Elizabeth the Second. May God bless her and all who sail in her."

United States

Ceremonial practices for christening and launching in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 had their roots in Europe. Descriptions of launching American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 naval vessels are not plentiful, but a local newspaper detailed the launch of Continental frigate Raleigh
USS Raleigh (1776)
USS Raleigh was one of thirteen ships that the Continental Congress authorized for the United States Navy in 1775. Following her capture in 1778, she served in the Royal Navy as HMS Raleigh.-As USS Raleigh:...

at Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth is a city in Rockingham County, New Hampshire in the United States. It is the largest city but only the fourth-largest community in the county, with a population of 21,233 at the 2010 census...

, in May 1776:
It was customary for the builders to celebrate a ship launching. Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

 authorities, charged with overseeing construction of frigates Warren
USS Warren (1776)
USS Warren was one of the 13 frigates authorized by the Continental Congress on 13 December 1775. With half her main armament being 18-pounders, Warren was more heavily armed than a typical 32-gun frigate of the period. She was named for Joseph Warren on 6 June 1776...

 and Providence
USS Providence (1776 frigate)
The second Providence, a 28-gun frigate, built by Silvester Bowes at Providence, Rhode Island, by order of the Continental Congress, was launched in May 1776....

, voted the sum of fifty dollars to the master builder of each yard "to be expended in providing an entertainment for the carpenters that worked on the ships." Five pounds was spent for lime juice for the launching festivities of frigate Delaware
USS Delaware (1776)
The first USS Delaware of the United States Navy was a 24-gun sailing frigate that had a short career in the American Revolutionary War....

at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, suggesting that the "entertainment" included a potent punch with lime juice as an ingredient.

No mention of christening a Continental Navy ship during the American Revolution has come to light. The first ships of the Continental Navy, Alfred
USS Alfred (1774)
The Alfred was a man-of-war in the Continental Navy of the United States. She was built as Black Prince, named for Edward, the Black Prince, and served as Alfred.-As Black Prince:...

, Cabot
USS Cabot (1775)
The first USS Cabot of the United States was a 14-gun brig, one of the first ships of the Continental Navy, and the first to be captured in the American Revolutionary War....

, Andrew Doria
USS Andrew Doria (1775)
Andrew Doria was a brig purchased by the Continental Congress in October of 1775. She is most famous for her participation in the Battle of Nassau—the first amphibious engagement by the Continental Navy and the Continental Marines—and for being the first United States vessel to receive a salute...

, and Columbus
USS Columbus (1774)
The first USS Columbus was a ship in the Continental Navy. Built at Philadelphia in 1774 as Sally, she was purchased for the Continental Navy in November 1775, Captain Abraham Whipple in command....

, were former merchantmen and their names were assigned during conversion and outfitting. Later, when Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 authorized the construction of thirteen frigates, no names were assigned until after four had launched.

The first description we have of an American warship christening is that of Constitution
USS Constitution
USS Constitution is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. Named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States of America, she is the world's oldest floating commissioned naval vessel...

, famous "Old Ironsides", at Boston, October 21, 1797. Her sponsor, Captain James Sever, USN, stood on the weather deck at the bow. "At fifteen minutes after twelve she commenced a movement into the water with such steadiness, majesty and exactness as to fill every heart with sensations of joy and delight." As Constitution ran out, Captain Sever broke a bottle of fine old Madeira
Madeira wine
Madeira is a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands. Some wines produced in small quantities in California and Texas are also referred to as "Madeira", or "Madera", although those wines do not conform to the EU PDO regulations...

 over the heel of the bowsprit
The bowsprit of a sailing vessel is a pole extending forward from the vessel's prow. It provides an anchor point for the forestay, allowing the fore-mast to be stepped farther forward on the hull.-Origin:...


Frigate President
USS President (1800)
USS President was a nominally rated 44-gun wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. She was named by George Washington to reflect a principle of the United States Constitution. Forman Cheeseman was in charge of her construction, and she was launched in April 1800 from a...

 had an interesting launching, April 10, 1800, at New York:
As the 19th century progressed, American ship launchings continued to be festive occasions, but with no set ritual except that the sponsor(s) used some "christening fluid" as the ship received her name.

Sloop-of-war Concord, launched in 1827, was "christened by a young lady of Portsmouth." This is the first known instance of a woman sponsoring a United States Navy vessel. Unfortunately, the contemporary account does not name this pioneer female sponsor. The first identified woman sponsor was Miss Lavinia Fanning Watson, daughter of a prominent Philadelphian. She broke a bottle of wine and water over the bow of sloop-of-war
In the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, a sloop-of-war was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. As the rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above, this meant that the term sloop-of-war actually encompassed all the unrated combat vessels including the...

USS Germantown (1846)
USS Germantown was a sloop-of-war in the United States Navy.Germantown was launched at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 22 August 1846; sponsored by Miss Lavinia Fanning Watson; because of damaging ice, transferred 18 December to Norfolk Navy Yard for fitting out; and commissioned 9 March 1847,...

at Philadelphia Navy Yard
Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
The Philadelphia Naval Business Center, formerly known as the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Philadelphia Navy Yard, was the first naval shipyard of the United States. The U.S. Navy reduced its activities there in the 1990s, and ended most of them on September 30, 1995...

 on August 22, 1846.

Women as sponsors became increasingly the rule, but not universally so. As sloop-of-war Plymouth
USS Plymouth (1844)
USS Plymouth was a sloop-of-war constructed and commissioned just prior to the Mexican-American War. She was heavily gunned, and traveled to Japan as part of Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s effort to force Japan to open her ports to international trade...

"glided along the inclined plane," in 1846, "two young sailors, one stationed at each side of her head, anointed her with bottles, and named her as she left her cradle for the deep." As late as 1898, the torpedo boat MacKenzie
USS MacKenzie (TB-17)
The first USS MacKenzie , was laid down by Charles Hillman Ship & Engine Building Company, Philadelphia, Pa., 15 April 1897; launched 19 February 1898; sponsored by Master Charles Hillman; and commissioned 1 May 1899, Lt. L. H. Chandler in command.Departing League Island 28 May 1899, MacKenzie...

 was christened by the son of the builder.

Although wine is the traditional "christening fluid," numerous other liquids have been used. Princeton
USS Princeton (1843)
The first Princeton was the first screw steam warship in the United States Navy. She was launched in 1843, decommissioned in 1847, and broken up in 1849....

and Raritan
USS Raritan (1843)
The first USS Raritan was a wooden-hulled, three-masted sailing frigate of the United States Navy built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, laid down in 1820, but not launched until 13 June 1843, sponsored by Commodore Frederick Engle. She was one of the last sailing frigates of the United States...

were sent on their way in 1843 with whisky
Whisky or whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Different grains are used for different varieties, including barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and corn...

. Seven years later, "a bottle of best brandy
Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35%–60% alcohol by volume and is typically taken as an after-dinner drink...

 was broken over the bow of steam sloop San Jacinto
USS San Jacinto (1850)
The first USS San Jacinto was an early screw frigate in the United States Navy during the mid-19th century. She was named for the San Jacinto River, site of the Battle of San Jacinto during the Texas Revolution. She is perhaps best known for her role in the Trent Affair of 1861.San Jacinto was laid...

." Steam frigate Merrimack
USS Merrimack (1855)
USS Merrimack was a frigate and sailing vessel of the United States Navy, best known as the hull upon which the ironclad warship, CSS Virginia was constructed during the American Civil War...

, who would earn her place in naval history as Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 ironclad Virginia
CSS Virginia
CSS Virginia was the first steam-powered ironclad warship of the Confederate States Navy, built during the first year of the American Civil War; she was constructed as a casemate ironclad using the raised and cut down original lower hull and steam engines of the scuttled . Virginia was one of the...

, was baptized with water from the Merrimack River
Merrimack River
The Merrimack River is a river in the northeastern United States. It rises at the confluence of the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee rivers in Franklin, New Hampshire, flows southward into Massachusetts, and then flows northeast until it empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Newburyport...

. Admiral David Farragut
David Farragut
David Glasgow Farragut was a flag officer of the United States Navy during the American Civil War. He was the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral in the United States Navy. He is remembered in popular culture for his order at the Battle of Mobile Bay, usually paraphrased: "Damn the...

's famous American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

, steam sloop Hartford
USS Hartford (1858)
USS Hartford, a sloop-of-war, was the first ship of the United States Navy named for Hartford, the capital of Connecticut.Hartford was launched 22 November 1858 at the Boston Navy Yard; sponsored by Miss Carrie Downes, Miss Lizzie Stringham, and Lieutenant G. J. H...

, was christened by three sponsors—two young ladies broke bottles of Connecticut River
Connecticut River
The Connecticut River is the largest and longest river in New England, and also an American Heritage River. It flows roughly south, starting from the Fourth Connecticut Lake in New Hampshire. After flowing through the remaining Connecticut Lakes and Lake Francis, it defines the border between the...

 and Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, it is the second most populous city on New England's largest river, the Connecticut River. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford's population was 124,775, making...

 spring water, while the third sponsor, a naval lieutenant, completed the ceremony with a bottle of sea water.

Champagne, perhaps because of its elegance as the aristocrat of wines, came into popular use as a "christening fluid" as the 19th century closed. A granddaughter of Secretary of the Navy
United States Secretary of the Navy
The Secretary of the Navy of the United States of America is the head of the Department of the Navy, a component organization of the Department of Defense...

 Benjamin F. Tracy
Benjamin F. Tracy
Benjamin Franklin Tracy was a United States political figure who served as Secretary of the Navy from 1889 through 1893, during the administration of U.S. President Benjamin Harrison.-Biography:...

 wet the bow of Maine
USS Maine (ACR-1)
USS Maine was the United States Navy's second commissioned pre-dreadnought battleship, although she was originally classified as an armored cruiser. She is best known for her catastrophic loss in Havana harbor. Maine had been sent to Havana, Cuba to protect U.S. interests during the Cuban revolt...

, the Navy's first steel battleship, with champagne at the New York Navy Yard
Brooklyn Navy Yard
The United States Navy Yard, New York–better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard or the New York Naval Shipyard –was an American shipyard located in Brooklyn, northeast of the Battery on the East River in Wallabout Basin, a semicircular bend of the river across from Corlear's Hook in Manhattan...

, November 18, 1890. The effects of national prohibition
Prohibition of alcohol, often referred to simply as prohibition, is the practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the...

 on alcoholic beverages were reflected to some extent in ship christenings. Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s Pensacola
USS Pensacola (CA-24)
USS Pensacola of the United States Navy was the lead ship of her class of heavy cruiser. The third Navy ship to be named after the city of Pensacola, Florida, she was nicknamed the "Grey Ghost" by Tokyo Rose. She received 13 battle stars for her service.She was laid down by the New York Navy Yard...

and Houston
USS Houston (CA-30)
USS Houston , nicknamed the "Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast", was a Northampton-class heavy cruiser of the United States Navy...

, for example, were christened with water; the submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

USS Nautilus (SS-168)
USS Nautilus , a and one of the "V-boats", was the third ship of the United States Navy to officially bear that popular ship's name. She was originally named and designated V-6 , but was redesignated and given hull classification symbol SC-2 on 11 February 1925...

 with cider. However, battleship California
USS California (BB-44)
USS California , a Tennessee-class battleship, was the fifth ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 31st state. Beginning as the flagship of the Pacific Fleet, she served in the Pacific her entire career. She was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor at her moorings in Battleship Row,...

appropriately received her name with California wine in 1919. Champagne returned, but for the occasion only, in 1922 for the launch of light cruiser Trenton
USS Trenton (CL-11)
USS Trenton was an Omaha-class light cruiser of the United States Navy. She was the second Navy ship named for the city of Trenton, New Jersey....


Rigid naval airship
An airship or dirigible is a type of aerostat or "lighter-than-air aircraft" that can be steered and propelled through the air using rudders and propellers or other thrust mechanisms...

s Los Angeles
USS Los Angeles (ZR-3)
The second USS Los Angeles was a rigid airship, designated ZR-3, that was built in 1923-1924 by the Zeppelin factory in Friedrichshafen, Germany, where it was originally designated LZ-126...

, Shenandoah
USS Shenandoah (ZR-1)
USS Shenandoah was the first of four United States Navy rigid airships. It was built in 1922-1923 at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, and first flew in September 1923. It developed the Navy's experience with rigid airships, even making the first crossing of North America by airship...

, Akron
USS Akron (ZRS-4)
USS Akron was a helium-filled rigid airship of the United States Navy that was lost in a weather-related accident off the New Jersey coast early on April 4, 1933, killing 73 of the 76 crew and passengers on board...

, and Macon
USS Macon (ZRS-5)
USS Macon was a rigid airship built and operated by the United States Navy for scouting. She served as a "flying aircraft carrier", launching Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk biplane fighters. In service for less than two years, in 1935 Macon was damaged in a storm and lost off California's Big Sur coast,...

, built during the 1920s and early 1930s, were carried on the Naval Vessel Register
Naval Vessel Register
The Naval Vessel Register is the official inventory of ships and service craft in custody of or titled by the United States Navy. It contains information on ships and service craft that make up the official inventory of the Navy from the time a vessel is authorized through its life cycle and...

, and each was formally commissioned
Ship commissioning
Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service, and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of project commissioning. The term is most commonly applied to the placing of a warship in active duty with its country's military...

. The earliest First Lady of the United States
First Lady of the United States
First Lady of the United States is the title of the hostess of the White House. Because this position is traditionally filled by the wife of the president of the United States, the title is most often applied to the wife of a sitting president. The current first lady is Michelle Obama.-Current:The...

 to act as sponsor was Grace Coolidge
Grace Coolidge
Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge was the wife of Calvin Coolidge and First Lady of the United States from 1923 to 1929.-Biography:...

 who christened the airship
An airship or dirigible is a type of aerostat or "lighter-than-air aircraft" that can be steered and propelled through the air using rudders and propellers or other thrust mechanisms...

 Los Angeles. When Lou Henry Hoover
Lou Henry Hoover
Lou Henry Hoover was the wife of President of the United States Herbert Hoover and First Lady of the United States, 1929-1933. Mrs. Hoover was president of the Girl Scouts of the USA for two terms, 1922-1925 and 1935-1937....

 christened Akron in 1931, the customary bottle was not used. Instead, the First Lady pulled a cord which opened a hatch in the airship's towering nose to release a flock of pigeons.

Thousands of ships of every description, the concerted effort of a mobilized American industry, came off the ways during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The historic christening-launching ceremonies continued, but travel restrictions, other wartime considerations, and sheer numbers dictated that such occasions be less elaborate than those in the years before the nation was engaged in desperate worldwide combat.

In recent history, all U. S. Navy sponsors have been female. In addition to the ceremonial breaking of a champagne bottle on the bow, the sponsor remains in contact with the ship's crew and is involved in special events such as homecomings.
(This article includes material from "Ships of the United States Navy: Christening, Launching and Commissioning, Second Edition," which was prepared for and published by the Naval History Division
Naval Historical Center
The Naval History & Heritage Command is the official history program of the United States Navy and is located at the historic Washington Navy Yard in the District of Columbia.-Mission :...

 of the Department of the Navy
United States Department of the Navy
The Department of the Navy of the United States of America was established by an Act of Congress on 30 April 1798, to provide a government organizational structure to the United States Navy and, from 1834 onwards, for the United States Marine Corps, and when directed by the President, of the...

, Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, 1975, and therefore is in the public domain as federal government work).

See also

  • Ship Class naming conventions
  • United States ship naming conventions
    United States ship naming conventions
    United States ship naming conventions for the navy were established by United States Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt. However, elements had existed since before his time...

  • Russian ship naming conventions
    Russian ship naming conventions
    The Russian and Soviet Navy's naming conventions were similar to those of other nations. A problem for the non-Russian reader is the need to transliterate the Cyrillic names into the Latin alphabet...

  • Japanese ship naming conventions
    Japanese ship naming conventions
    Japanese ship naming conventions are different from those in the West. Japanese warships have never been named after people. Prior to World War II, Japanese ship naming conventions underwent several changes before being settled.- Merchant ships :...

  • Hull classification symbol
    Hull classification symbol
    The United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use hull classification symbols to identify their ship types and each individual ship within each type...

  • Ship commissioning
    Ship commissioning
    Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service, and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of project commissioning. The term is most commonly applied to the placing of a warship in active duty with its country's military...

External links

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