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Strange History: A Remington Rolling Block From the USS Niagara

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The story of the USS Niagara is quite an odd little corner of history. It was a ship built in 1877 and acquired by the US Navy in 1898, fitted out as a water distillery and supply ship. That fitting out was not actually done by the Navy, though, but rather by a group of wealth private citizens in New York, headed by William Randolph Hearst. As an outburst of (allegedly) grassroots support for the US war effort against Spain, these men outfitted and donated the Niagara to the Navy. And the fitted it out like a private yacht, with porcelain china and silver flatware for all the officers and sailors, and much more. The arms and accouterments purchased were all finely stamped or engraved with the name of the ship, including 35 brand new Remington Rolling Block rifles in 7mm Mauser, with “NIAGARA” engraved in bold letters across the top of the receiver.

Once the outfitting was complete and the ship was in Navy service, she sailed down to Cube, stayed on station for about two months without participating in any action of note, and then sailed back to New York to be decommissioned and sold for scrap. Francis Bannerman was on hand at the scrap auction, and bought most of the small items form the ship (including the rifles). Bannerman’s catalog would list Niagara items until 1927…

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