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USS Vulcan (AR-5) Collection

Collection ID: MG 57

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of material gathered by Michael A. Southwood, while a crew member of USS Vulcan from 1982 to 1983. The collections contains histories of the USS Vulcan, recollections of crew members, shipboard publications, photographs, information on shipboard activities, and memorabilia, among others.


  • 1898-1985, undated
  • Other: Date acquired: 12/10/1984



2.00 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

The USS Vulcan (AR-5), a 50-year veteran of naval service, easily ranks as one of the U.S. Navy's most historic repair vessels. The USS Vulcan Collection was established to preserve the long record of repair support logged by the men and women who have served aboard the Atlantic Fleet's oldest active ship (second in the entire Navy) over the years. In addition, the collection also includes some material pertaining to the first and second Vulcans. The Vulcan was based in Norfolk from 1954 until her decommissioning in 1991. The First Vulcan The first Vulcan was commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on May 31, 1898. Her commanding officer was Commander Ira Harris. Originally named Chatham, the fourteen year-old steamship was purchased by the Navy Department from the Merchants and Miners Transportation Company, a Baltimore firm, on May 2, 1898. Envisioned as a floating, mobile workshop and store ship, the repair vessel was needed to support the American fleet then operating off the southeastern coast of Cuba. Renamed Vulcan, conversion work began at a rapid pace, with completion ending about four weeks later. As recognized by the Naval Historical Center, Vulcan was now, "the fleet's first repair ship." After a brief stop in Newport News, Virginia, Vulcan arrived in the waters off Santiago de Cuba on July 1, 1898. Following the decisive American victory on July 3, Vulcan was given the task to repair and salvage two captured, badly damaged Spanish vessels, the Maria Teresa and the Cristobal Colon. Over the next few months, Vulcan made repairs to over fifty ships and brought badly needed stores to a like number while attached to the American fleet in Cuba. As hostilities subsided, Vulcan was recalled to the United States, where she underwent a refitting period at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth. Her services no longer required, Vulcan was decommissioned in January 1899. Her impressive performance prompted the Chief, Bureau of Steam Engineering to recommend the procurement of a similar repair ship for the Pacific fleet. The Second Vulcan The second Vulcan (Collier No. 5), a coal ship, was commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard on October 2, 1909. Her initial crew was from another collier, the Lebanon, which was decommissioned at the yard on the same day. Vulcan's first commanding officer was Captain Jere Merrithew, USN. Prior to the First World War, Vulcan operated out of Norfolk and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, delivering coal and stores to the fleet along the East Coast and various Caribbean islands. During World War I, Vulcan was assigned to the Fleet Train which was made up of service vessels providing coal and supplies to the Allied naval forces. In January 1919, Vulcan was next assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service for six months of duty. Placed out of commission in July 1921, Vulcan was sold to N. Block and Company of Norfolk, a scrap metal firm, in December 1923. The Third Vulcan The USS Vulcan (AR-5) was the third U.S. Navy vessel to bear the name of the Roman god of fire, metalworking, and craftsmanship. Vulcan was launched on December 14, 1940 just about a year after keel was laid down in mid-December 1939 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey. Mrs. James Forrestal, wife of the Undersecretary of the Navy, was the ship's sponsor.

The USS Vulcan was decommissioned on September 30, 1991.

Note written by Michael A. Southwood

Language of Materials



Navy repair vessel. Served in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. Participated in the Occupation of Japan (1945-1946) and the Dominican Republic intervention (1965). Contains historical material, memorabilia, crew member recollections, press releases, newspaper clippings, and photographs.

Arrangement Note

The papers are organized into nine series: Series I: Previous USS Vulcans; Series II: Historical Material; Series III: Crewmember Recollections and Memorabilia; Series IV: Shipboard Publications; Series V: Shipboard Offices; Series VI: Newspaper Clippings; Series VII: Athletics Recreation; Series VIII: Photographs; Series IX: Miscellaneous.

Preservica Internal URL

Preservica Public URL

Source of Acquisition

Michael Southwood

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession # A84-6

A Guide to the USS Vulcan (AR-5) Collection
Michael A. Southwood, revised by Janice Halecki and Kathleen V. Smith, 2002
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
  • TypeCollection

Repository Details

Part of the ODU Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US