By William Bork
One Hundred Years
U.S. Post Office
1898 July 18 1998
So reads the special "cachet" being applied upon request to letters mailed at the Dewey post office at the junction of Arizona highways 69 and 169 opposite Young's Farm until August 18, 1998. Here is the story behind the celebration.
Theodore Roosevelt and the U.S. had won the "splendid little war" with Spain. George Dewey, an Annapolis Naval Academy graduate, was in charge of the United States Asiatic fleet stationed at Nagasaki, Japan, in November 1897, when his country and Spain were still at peace, although at very great odds because of the unstable situation on the island of Cuba, where the inhabitants had been essentially at war since an uprising in 1869.
When war broke out in April 1898, Dewey was ready, for he had studied the situation at Manila Bay, capital of the Spanish colony in the Philippine Islands not too far from Japan. With a small squadron available, he sailed from Nagasaki and attacked the Spanish fleet so effectively that Spanish Admiral Cevera surrendered in two days. The Arizona Rough Riders had won the victory on land at Havana, Cuba, and now the Navy was victorious in the Philippine waters of Manila.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, a few miles from the home of the Rough Riders at Prescott, Fred Hiltenbrandt was getting ready to open the first post office, for which he had chosen the name DEWEY to honor the hero of the Battle of Manila Bay, George Dewey, at that time ranked as a commodore in the U.S. Navy.
The post office began operations on July 18, 1898, 100 years ago. To mark the occasion, Mike Terry, postmaster, is making the special "cachet" and commemorative postmark of the town available for any envelopes (covers) for which they are requested during the next 30 days (until August 18th). Anyone needs only ask the clerk on duty in Dewey to obtain the commemorative markings, according to the postmaster. The "cachet" is courtesy of the Postal History Foundation of Tucson.
Professor Robert Bechtel of the Foundation, and Joan Gentry, president of the Tucson Post Card Exchange Club, joined William Bork of the Prescott Stamp Club and Arizona Postal History Authority at Dewey on July 18th to affix the "cachet" and the Dewey postmark to envelopes as souvenirs of the 100th anniversary.
Our United States war with Spain in 1898 marked entry of our country upon the world scene in contrast with our history from the time of the Revolution and the latter 18th century, when we had lived within ourselves on the North American continent. When Theodore Roosevelt seceded to William McKinley's post as president following his assassination in 1900, he sent our Navy around the world on its 1901, tour as notice to other nations.
Dewey's victory at Manila Bay, commanding the quite limited forces present at Nagasaki in the early days of May 1898, was recognized then and shortly afterward to have been risky, at best, and fortuitous in any case. There were no American reinforcements available. All were at least half a world away...from the Atlantic coast of the United States, southward around the South American continent via Cape Horn over 12,000 miles by sea, a journey of perhaps 20 days. If there had been a Panama Canal at that time, which President Roosevelt later started to build, the journey might have been shortened by many days, but in 1898?
Which Dewey? There has been some hearsay evidence that maybe George Dewey, Admiral Dewey, that is, was really not the man honored by the post office naming, but our research to date has not found any Dewey surname residents in the town, at least at the time of the post office naming. Census records for 1890, were apparently lost or destroyed during Territorial Days in Washington, as they do not exist for Arizona for that year. The 1900, census records do not list any persons under the Dewey surname.
Professor Albert William Bork, 91, is the oldest living Smoki, and is a Former Chief.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (Photo courtesy of Dept.of Navy, Naval Historical Center). Reuse only by permission.
Admiral Dewey on the Flagship Olympia at the Battle of Manila Bay, 1 May 1898.